06 Nov 2008 01:39:40
Toyota hacks forecasts as U.S. carmakers seek help
TOKYO (Reuters) –
Toyota Motor Corp, the world's No.1 automaker, warned operating profits will sink to a 13-year low this year, as other carmakers sought more state help to ride out a financial crisis that is crippling demand and squeezing credit around the globe.
After a week of profit warnings from six of the seven other Japanese car makers, industry watchers had braced for similar pain at Toyota -- until recently the envy of the sector with eight straight years of profit growth.
But a 63 percent cut in forecast operating profit, to 600 billion yen ($6.1 billion), was far beyond the most pessimistic prediction -- and would be Toyota's lowest profit since 1995/96, and down 74 percent from a record 2.2 trillion yen last year.
"I was very much stunned," Koji Endo, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "First-half profit was already more than 580 billion yen, so that means the company is looking at virtually no profit in the second half.
A poll of 17 brokers had forecast 1.34 trillion yen for the year to March 2009.
The maker of the Camry sedan, Prius gas-electric hybrid and Tundra pickup has cut production, let go temporary staff and offered buyers unprecedented incentives as sales in key markets slide due to the spreading global crisis.
But its U.S. rivals are in more dire straits.
General Motors Corp warned this week that the industry's prospects are dwindling fast as a "near collapse" in demand for cars accelerates the pace of cash burn.
The chief executives of Detroit's Big Three -- GM, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC -- are scheduled to lobby House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi later on Thursday on the need for new and immediate aid, on top of $25 billion in loans sought from the outgoing Bush administration.
GM and Ford are expected to post dismal results on Friday.
Honda Motor Co Chief Executive Takeo Fukui, meanwhile, complained about wild fluctuations in the yen, saying authorities should step in to prevent a sudden rise in the currency -- a major culprit for Japanese car makers' revisions.
Toyota's forecast cuts came as an even bigger shock after a newspaper reported earlier that the figure could merely "fall short" of 1 trillion yen.
The Tokyo Shimbun daily report had sent Toyota shares down 10 percent in Tokyo, before the results were announced. Tokyo's transport sector subindex fell in line and Toyota shares in Frankfurt later slumped 13 percent.
"I had never imagined such a big downward revision on its earnings outlook and a sharp fall in its interim result," said Yasuaki Iwamoto, an analyst at Okasan Securities, predicting a sharp drop in the share price in Tokyo on Friday.
For the year to end-March, Toyota now expects 550 billion yen net profit instead of 1.25 trillion yen -- based on a dollar and euro average of 100 yen and 130 yen assumed for the second half, versus less favourable levels of 98 yen and 127 yen on Thursday.
The impact of a global credit crisis has spread to emerging markets such as China and India, throwing a wrench in automakers' plans to seek strong growth there to offset slumping sales in the big U.S. and European markets.
Toyota lowered its 2008/09 global sales forecast to 8.24 million vehicles from 8.74 million, expecting weaker demand in most regions.
"In this environment, it's impossible to tell when things will start to improve," Executive Vice President Mitsuo Kinoshita told reporters, adding he hoped the U.S. market would start to recover around the end of next year.
He said Toyota would urgently reduce costs and speed up the roll-out of fuel-efficient hybrids, starting with four new models next year.
Toyota's U.S. sales have fallen 12 percent so far this year, prompting the top Japanese automaker to lower its forecast there this week -- the second cut in four months.
Ford and GM welcomed government efforts on Wednesday to expedite regulations for administering the advanced technology loans. Industry believed two months ago that the financing for more efficiency would be enough to help it fund crucial projects, such as the electric Chevrolet Volt, and help it avoid further turmoil.
But Wall Street's meltdown and the cascading global credit crisis sank debt portfolios of the Detroit manufacturers and choked off consumer borrowing for auto purchases.
"There's widespread recognition that the economic downturn and the credit crunch totally changed the situation and that industry is facing serious difficulties, and there is a need for additional assistance," said Alan Reuther, legislative director for the UAW, the main autoworkers' union.
(Additional reporting by Sachi Izumi and Aiko Hayashi in TOKYO and John Crawley in WASHINGTON, Editing by Lincoln Feast & Ian Geoghegan)
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Coleman leads Al Franken in Minn. Senate race
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03 Nov 2008 23:04:46
Obama, McCain storm battlegrounds on election eve
TAMPA, Fla. – Barack Obama radiated confidence and John McCain displayed the grit of an underdog Monday as the presidential rivals reached for the finish line of a two-year marathon with a burst of campaigning across battlegrounds from the Atlantic Coast to Arizona.
"We are one day away from change in America," said Obama, a Democrat seeking to become the first black president a dream not nearly as distant on election eve as it once was.
McCain, too, promised to turn the page of the era of George W. Bush and said he sensed an upset in the making.
"This momentum, this enthusiasm convinces me we're going to win tomorrow," McCain told a raucous evening rally in Henderson, Nev., part of a seven-state campaign sprint that was to end in Arizona early Tuesday.
Republican running mate Sarah Palin was more pointed as she campaigned in Ohio. "Now is not the time to experiment with socialism," she said. "Our opponent's plan is just for bigger government."
Late-season attacks aside, Obama led in virtually all the pre-election polls in a race where economic concerns dominated and the war in Iraq was pushed however temporarily into the background.
While the overall number of early votes was unknown, statistics showed more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states and suggested an advantage for Obama. Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for President Bush in 2004.
Obama came out on top in the first Tuesday votes, recorded just after midnight in two small New Hampshire towns. Obama defeated McCain by a 15-6 vote in Dixville Notch, while Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul.
Democrats also anticipated gains in the House and in the Senate, although Republicans battled to hold their losses to a minimum and a significant number of races were rated as tossups in the campaign's final hours.
By their near-non-stop attention to states that voted Republican in 2004, both Obama and McCain acknowledged the Democrats' advantage in the presidential race.
The two rivals both began their days in Florida, a traditionally Republican state with 27 electoral votes where polls make it close.
Obama drew 9,000 or so at a rally in Jacksonville, while across the state, a crowd estimated at roughly 1,000 turned out for McCain.
The front-runner also choked up on the campaign's final day as he told a crowd in North Carolina of the death of his grandmother from cancer. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.
"She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side," he said of the woman who had played a large role in his upbringing. "And so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it is hard for me to talk about."
McCain and his wife issued a statement of condolence.
One day before the election, no battleground state was left unattended.
But Virginia, where no Democrat has won in 40 years, and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes that McCain can scarcely do without.
Democratic volunteers in Maryland, a state safe for Obama, called voters in next-door Virginia, where McCain trailed in the polls. The Democratic presidential candidate's visit to Virginia during the day was his 11th since he clinched the nomination.
Unwilling to concede anything, McCain's campaign filed a lawsuit in Richmond seeking to force election officials to count late-arriving ballots from members of the armed forces overseas. No hearing was immediately scheduled.
Several hundred miles away in Ohio the state that sealed Bush's second term in 2004 voters waited as long as three hours in line to cast ballots in Columbus, part of heavily contested Franklin County. Poll workers handed out bottles of water to sustain them.
Lori Huffman, 38, a supervisor at UPS Inc., took the day off to vote early for her man, McCain. "It's exciting isn't it?" she asked, gesturing toward the long line of waiting voters.
"This is happening all over the state, from Cleveland to Dayton," said Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat trying to deliver his state to Obama.
Obama hoped so, after more than a year building an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation, first for the primary campaign, now for the general election.
The Democrat flew from Florida to North Carolina to Virginia, all states that went Republican in 2004, before heading home to Chicago on Election Eve.
Twenty-one months after he launched his campaign, he allowed, "You know. I feel pretty peaceful ... I gotta say."
On a syndicated radio program, "The Russ Parr Morning Show," he said, "The question is going to be who wants it more. And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."
If wanting it were all that mattered, the race would be a toss-up.
McCain, behind in the polls, set out on a grueling run through several traditionally Republican states that he has failed to secure. Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada were on his itinerary, as was Pennsylvania, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 where he still nursed hopes.
His last appearance of the long day, past midnight, was a home state rally in Prescott, Ariz. "My friends, it's been a long, long journey," he told supporters.
The surrogate campaigners included Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republicans. Both lost races for their party's presidential nomination earlier in the year, and both could be expected to try again if their ticket loses the White House.
Not so, President Bush.
Deeply unpopular, the man who won the White House twice was out of public view, an effort to help McCain.
Palin was racing through five Bush states Monday Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada in an effort to boost conservative turnout for McCain. The Alaska governor has been a popular draw for many GOP base voters, and already, there was speculation about a future national campaign should Republicans lose in 2008.
Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, campaigned in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. "We are on the cusp of a new brand of leadership," he assured supporters.
Biden didn't say so, but he was as close to guaranteed a victory as any politician in America. Whatever the fate of the Democratic presidential ticket, he was heavily favored to win a new Senate term from Delaware on Tuesday.
Eds: Espo reported from Washington. AP writers Nedra Pickler in Jacksonville, Fla., Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, Joe Milica from Lakewood, Ohio, Christopher Clark in Lee's Summit, Mo., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.