TOKYO -- In a preview of the industry-record results it's expected to post for the full fiscal year, Toyota Motor Corp. said last week third-quarter net profit nearly doubled over a year earlier as sales continued to grow worldwide.
For the fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, Toyota said consolidated, or worldwide, net profit soared 93.9 percent to ¥216.0 billion, or $1.80 billion at current exchange rates. Revenue rose 13.2 percent, to $34.92 billion.
Operating profit rose 23.3 percent to $3.16 billion, yielding an operating margin of 9.1 percent.
Toyota's operating profit for the full year widely is expected to top $10 billion, a level never achieved by any automaker. Analyst Takaki Nakanishi of UBS-Warburg in Tokyo, for example, expects Toyota to report an operating profit of $12.7 billion and a net profit of $8.1 billion.
Toyota does not issue a forecast for full-year consolidated profits, but executives concede that they expect to post record results this year.
After all, "We've already achieved in nine months what we achieved in the full year last year," Ryuji Araki, executive vice president, said at last week's earnings press conference.
In the first nine months, operating profit rose 36.3 percent over a year earlier to $9.26 billion, while net soared 91.2 percent to $6.42 billion. Revenue rose 14.6 percent to $100.69 billion.
For the previous full fiscal year, Toyota earned an operating profit of $9.37 billion and a net of $5.14 billion.
Higher volumes in each of Toyota's major geographical segments drove profits higher. On the other hand, higher labor and r&d costs associated with the launch of new models in overseas plants trimmed profits. The yen's exchange rate against other currencies was favorable but did not produce windfall profits as it has in some recent years.
Those same factors are expected to be the drivers behind Toyota's earnings for the full fiscal year to March 31.
North American operating profit fell 2.6 percent to $743.7 million, largely because of the cost of expanding Toyota's truck plant in Indiana and the impact of the West Coast harbor strike.
Operating profit in Japan jumped 25.6 percent to $2.31 billion on increased exports to North America and Asia, cost cutting, and higher sales volumes in the Japanese market.
With exports strong and unit sales higher in Japan, "Our production lines are fully utilized," Araki said. That may ease a bit, because Toyota will not have to continue rebuilding North American inventories as it did earlier this year.
Toyota's European operations posted an operating profit of $2.1 million against a year-earlier loss of $14.4 million. With Europe posting profits for several quarters in a row, Araki said, "It seems Europe is establishing itself as a profitable operation."