Toyota seen forecasting profit fall on output woes

Markets Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> is expected to forecast a fall in annual profit later on Friday as the world's largest automaker works to restore output knocked out by Japan's March 11 disaster and grapples with a strong yen.

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The car maker is scheduled to announce its forecast for the business year to March 2012 at 0600 GMT. The average estimate of 23 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S is for an operating profit of 434 billion yen ($5.4 billion), down from 468.3 billion yen in the prior year.

Last month, Toyota reported a 52 percent fall in profit for the January-March quarter. It did not provide an annual forecast at that time as it weighed the impact of the disaster on consumption and its supply chain.

Toyota's delayed outlook is being closely watched by investors as an indicator of how quickly Japan's car industry can recover profits after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami prompted a widespread slowdown in output.

Earlier this month, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said he expected output in Japan to recover to 90 percent of levels seen before the disaster and for global production to recover fully in November.

But yen strength -- the dollar slipped to a one-month low this week below 80 yen -- looks set to depress Toyota's profits. The maker of the Corolla and Crown sedans, which had struggled with a recall crisis in 2009 and 2010, has said it needs the dollar at 85 yen or weaker to break even in Japan.

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Manufacturers are also bracing for power shortages this summer due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants following the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power's <9501.T> crippled Fukushima Daiichi facility.

Western Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co <9503.T> has asked its customers to cut power use by 15 percent during peak hours this summer as public worries over safety are keeping nuclear reactors offline, pushing the country's power crunch beyond the quake-hit northeast.

The massive disruption to production will almost certainly mean Toyota will fall behind General Motors <GM.N> and possibly Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> to rank third in global vehicle sales this year.

Among other automakers, Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T> is scheduled to announce guidance on June 13, and Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T> on June 17. Nissan Motor <7201.T> and Honda Motor Co <7267.T> are also due to issue forecasts this month, but have not yet set a date.

Prior to the outlook announcement, Toyota shares were up 1.2 percent at 3,310 yen, compared with a 1 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei average <.N225>.

Toyota's stock is down 7.5 percent since the March 11 disaster, against a 6.5 percent fall in the Nikkei.

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura and Nathan Layne; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)

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