Toyota sees lower annual operating profit on higher yen

Despite cost cuts and record-high global sales, Toyota expects operating profit of 2.3 trillion yen for the year to March 2019 — better than analysts’ estimates but 4.2 percent lower than a year ago due to a firmer yen rate of around 105 to the dollar, versus 111 yen in the previous year.

A firmer yen eats into profits repatriated from abroad and raises the cost of exported vehicles and parts, making Japanese products less competitive overseas and denting margins.

Toyota’s warning comes on the heels of similar projections by other Japanese automakers, such as Honda Motor and Mazda Motor. The only outlier so far is Mitsubishi Motors, which sees a rise in operating profit despite a stronger yen.

Toyota is targeting total group sales of a record 10.5 million vehicles globally in the year to March, versus 10.44 million last year, led by strength in Asia.

It expects sales in Asia to rise 8.2 percent to 1.67 million units, while it sees sales in North America, its biggest market, dropping slightly to 2.8 million units.

In North America, Toyota and its domestic rivals are grappling with intense competition and falling demand for sedans, a mainstay of Japanese automakers in the region, amid an overall slowdown in the world’s second-biggest auto market.

North America remains “challenging”, senior managing officer Masayoshi Shirayanagi said, adding the company planned to keep vehicle discounts, a major cost to the company, at current levels or lower them this year.

Shares in Toyota reversed early losses to close up 3.8 percent on Wednesday, buoyed partly by a company plan to buy back shares worth up to 300 billion yen.

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