TOKYO (Reuters) -- Mazda Motor Corp. said today it was looking to raise up to 162.8 billion yen ($2 billion) in its second public share offering in 2-1/2 years, underscoring the Japanese automaker's vulnerability to the stubbornly strong yen.
The public share offering at Japan's No.5 automaker was bigger than the 100 billion yen flagged by financial sources a day earlier and would cause a significant 69 percent dilution in holdings for existing shareholders.
Mazda said it may also borrow about 70 billion yen (about $872 million) from banks.
While the strong yen has hammered all Japanese automakers, Mazda has been hit hardest with about 70 percent of its production in Japan -- 90 percent of that for export. This month, Mazda said its net loss would balloon to 100 billion yen in the year ending in March, for a fourth straight annual loss and far worse than the previous forecast for a 19 billion yen loss.
"With the plants they have now, they're just not viable," said Christopher Richter, auto analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. "They need to get out from under this yen burden."
Excluding the overallotment portion of the offer, Mazda would raise 147 billion yen and dilution would be 62 percent. Mazda is seeking another 70 billion yen in subordinated loans.
Mazda said in a regulatory filing it needs about 35 billion yen for factories in Mexico and Russia as it aims to raise the ratio of vehicles built outside Japan to 50 percent by 2016.
Another 30 billion yen would be used to pay for improved manufacturing facilities in Japan, and about 93 billion yen to develop next-generation environmental and safety technologies over the next three years, the company said.
But with the Mexican factory not due to start production until the latter half of 2013, analysts said Mazda would remain at the mercy of exchange rates for now.
Mazda is among the few automakers in the world with no capital alliances at a time when many in the industry are tying up to share the rising burden of research and development as governments tighten environmental and safety regulations.
Sources said today that General Motors Co. and France's PSA Peugeot Citroen were discussing a broad manufacturing alliance, even as Mazda's own links with former controlling shareholder Ford Motor Co. weaken.
Mazda and Ford still operate joint car factories in China and Thailand, but Ford's stake has fallen to just 3.5 percent from a peak of 33.4 percent. The latest share offering would further lower Ford's stake to as little as 2.1 percent.
"I think Mazda is at a crossroads of determining how it's going to survive on its own," said a Tokyo-based analyst at a European brokerage, declining to be identified.
Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi last week knocked down the possibility of a capital alliance, telling reporters the automaker would opt for project-based partnerships instead.
A reliance on exports has hit Mazda especially hard in Europe, where it was one of the most successful Asian brands just a few years ago. In 2011, Mazda's European sales excluding Russia totaled 145,600 vehicles, falling 55 percent in three years.
"One of the exposures that none of their announced expansions addresses is Western Europe," said CLSA's Richter. "Europe used to be their strongest market -- half of their profits. And they've basically let two-thirds of their share go because they can't afford to sell into that market with the way the euro-yen rate has been."
Mazda, valued at $3.3 billion, has around 100 billion yen in debt due at the end of March, while its equity ratio -- the proportion of equity used to finance its assets -- fell below 20 percent at the end of December, compared with above 30 percent at Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
Mazda shares ended up 1.4 percent at 147 yen before the announcement, after tumbling 10 percent on Tuesday on reports of the capital-raising plans.