Toyota closes in on record profit as rivals face expansion pain

Toyota closes in on record profit as rivals face expansion pain
Toyota vice president Nobuyori Kodaira announces the second quarter financial results during a press conference at their head office in Tokyo on November 6, 2013.

TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp is closing in on a record profit set before the Lehman crisis after topping up its annual net profit forecast by nearly $2 billion (S$2.48 billion) and outperforming Japanese rivals as its expansion plans bear fruit.

The world's best-selling carmaker is racking up strong sales in a healthy US market while keeping costs in check and taking a breather from building new facilities, in contrast to Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co which are grappling with heavy expansion costs.

Toyota, one of the most export-reliant Japanese carmakers, is also reaping the benefits of a weakening yen that has boosted its profit margins but acknowledged it will have to start spending more to maintain its advantage.

"Our basic stance of controlling fixed costs and improving gross profit will not change, but we do need aggressive investment in order to brush up on future technology," Managing Officer Takuo Sasaki told an earnings briefing on Wednesday.

Toyota credited its conservative strategy as a key factor when it raised its net profit forecast by 190 billion yen to 1.67 trillion yen (S$21 billion) for the year ending in March 2014, just short of its record 1.72 trillion yen from six years ago.

A Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey of 23 analysts gave an average forecast of 1.79 trillion yen. Toyota's annual operating profit rises by 40 billion yen for every one-yen rise in the value of the dollar.

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