Toyota quarterly profit skyrockets to $3.71 bn

Toyota said Friday that its quarterly net profit skyrocketed to $3.71 billion and it upped sales targets, as the Japanese auto giant recovered from last year's quake-tsunami disaster.

The company said it earned 290.3 billion yen in the fiscal first quarter to June, up from just 1.16 billion yen a year ago -- the first full quarter after Japan was devastated by the March 11 natural disasters that dented production and demand.

Sales in the period shot up nearly 60 percent to 5.50 trillion yen, the automaker said. Its operating profit reached 353.14 billion yen, swinging back into the black after an operating loss of 107.96 billion yen a year ago.

The company also lifted its global sales forecast, saying it now expected to sell 9.76 million vehicles -- up from 9.58 million vehicles -- this calendar year, while producing a total of 10.05 million vehicles.

Toyota returned to the top of the global carmakers' league in the first half of 2012 by selling almost five million vehicles, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen.

"In all regions, vehicle sales increased significantly due to strong recovery of demand which had suffered last year from the lack of supply caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake," Senior Managing Officer Takahiko Ijichi said in statement.

Toyota's aggressive cost-cutting and stronger sales more than offset the negative impact of a high yen which has weighed on Japanese manufacturers by making their products less competitive overseas and shrinking foreign income.

The yen hit record highs around 75 against the dollar late last year and remains strong.

Efforts to chop costs saved about 70.0 billion yen in the quarter, Toyota said, but currency fluctuations were a drag on operating profit, it added.

Toyota kept its annual net profit forecast at 760 billion yen on sales of 22.0 trillion yen.

The company, whose brands also include Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, sold a record 4.97 millions units worldwide in the first six months of this year, up nearly 34 percent from the same period last year.

That vaulted Toyota ahead of GM and Volkswagen, which sold 4.67 million and 4.45 million units in the first half respectively.

The Japanese firm last year lost the title of world's biggest carmaker -- a spot it had held between 2008 and 2010 -- following a slump in production and sales owing to the disasters, floods in Thailand and the strong yen.

In the fiscal year to March 2012, Toyota's net profit tumbled 30.5 percent to 283.56 billion yen.

Despite the currency and disaster-related struggles, Toyota has also been forced into damage control in recent years after recalling millions of vehicles since 2009 over safety defects.

To drive growth, the firm has said it will roll out a number of new compact cars priced around $12,500 in developing nations, targeting sales of more than one million of the models annually in emerging markets by 2015.

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