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Toyota cautious on outlook after near-record quarterly profit

Toyota Motor Corp's Toyota 86 sports car is seen at the company's showroom in Tokyo August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Toyota Motor Corp's Toyota 86 sports car is seen at the company's showroom in Tokyo August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> took a cautious stance on its profit outlook, worried over currency moves and a slowdown in Thailand and other emerging markets, even as healthy earnings on overseas sales lifted it to a near-record quarterly profit.

The world's biggest carmaker trounced its rivals Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co in earnings for the period as a weaker yen made exports more profitable and allowed Toyota to convert money made overseas at a more profitable rate.

Toyota posted its second best quarterly operating profit at 663.4 billion yen ($6.69 billion). Currency moves, mostly the yen's depreciation, accounted for more than 80 percent of the rise.

And while the company raised its profit forecast for the year to next March, the 8 percent tweak to 1.94 trillion yen was well short of the near record 2.27 trillion yen result analysts are expecting.

"There are some uncertainties in emerging markets," Toyota Managing Officer Takuo Sasaki told a news conference.

"But we will have the new Corolla going on sale in North America and a new compact car for the emerging markets, so we will aim to boost sales."

Analysts seemed unconcerned by the company's cautious stance, even as it also trimmed its U.S. vehicle sales target slightly to reflect a rise in demand for SUVs and pickup trucks where its U.S. rivals are stronger.

"Although the raised full-year operating profit forecast of 1.94 trillion yen is below the market consensus, there's no need to see this as a negative," said Toyo Securities auto analyst Takumi Hoshi. Toyota was reaping benefits widely from strong sales, a weak yen and cost reductions, he added.

YEN-RELATED GAINS

Toyota's strong results underscored a trend among Japanese carmakers relying heavily on a weak yen to post healthy profits.

The eight combined, including Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> and Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, posted a year-on-year quarterly operating profit rise of 441.3 billion yen, but the contribution from currency moves exceeded that, at 512.8 billion yen.

The dollar has risen about 25 percent against the yen since mid-November when expectations were rising that Shinzo Abe would become Japan's new prime minister and implement bold policies to bolster the economy.

Toyota's quarterly operating profit, which was in line with analysts' estimates, was the biggest since a record set six years ago and well above Volkswagen's group April-June operating profit of $4.5 billion.

But Sasaki sounded a cautious note on Thailand, where the market is down after subsidies for first-car buyers ended, and India, where an economic slowdown is weighing on vehicle demand.

In Thailand, Southeast Asia's biggest car market, Toyota's January-June sales dropped 2 percent year-on-year, in contrast to industry-wide growth of 22 percent. Last month, it cut its 2013 Thai sales forecast by 10 percent to 450,000 vehicles.

"The green car segment grew more than expected but we have not been able to introduce a model that meets demand there, so we cut our forecast," Sasaki said, adding that Toyota aims to start selling a green car there by the end of the year.

Toyota lags rivals in small, fuel-efficient cars that are increasingly popular in Thailand, its fourth-biggest market on a country basis. Rival Honda has seen strong sales of the fuel-efficient Brio Amaze in that market.

Toyota's exposure in ASEAN, which accounts for more than 10 percent of its global sales, is greater than its main rivals.

($1 = 99.2250 Japanese yen)

(Additional reporting by Hirotoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Jeremy Laurence)

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