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Moody’s may downgrade Toyota rating

TOKYO (AP) ― Moody’s Investors Service warned Wednesday it may downgrade its credit rating for Toyota Motor Corp. due to the financial fallout from suspended car production following the March 11 quake and tsunami.

The rating agency said Toyota’s financial and operating performance will worsen as a result of the disasters, which are causing major disruptions in auto parts supply and have forced Toyota and other automakers to halt production.

Toyota, the world’s No. 1 carmaker, suspended production at all its 18 factories in Japan from March 14 to 26 due to parts shortages. Since March 28, Toyota has been running just two plants at limited capacity to make Prius and Lexus cars.

The disasters resulted in a production loss of 200,000 cars from March 14 to April 1, said Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto. She declined to comment on Moody’s warning.
New vehicles damaged by the March 11 tsunami waters sit in a Toyota parking lot at the Sendai port, northeastern Japan. (AP-Yonhap News)
New vehicles damaged by the March 11 tsunami waters sit in a Toyota parking lot at the Sendai port, northeastern Japan. (AP-Yonhap News)

Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai-Tokyo Securities, said Toyota’s production at the two plants accounts for only 3 to 4 percent of the its normal capacity.

“There is no question that a plunge in domestic production will really hurt Toyota’s earnings,” said Kato. “We don’t know how long the shortage crisis will last.”

Toyota has not said when its domestic factories can return to full operations. Moody’s said it would take “many months” for Toyota to return to normal production.

Toyota’s long-term uncollateralized debt rating is currently set at “Aa2” by Moody’s. The rating agency said its review for possible downgrade will focus on Toyota’s ability to restore production in Japan.

“Moody’s will also consider how quickly the company can improve its profitability despite the negative impact of the disasters,” it said.

Japan’s top business daily Nikkei said Wednesday that Toyota would resume auto production at most of its domestic plants as early as next week. The Asahi daily said Toyota would reopen the remaining plants under limited capacity. Hashimoto denied the reports.

Car sales in Japan dived nearly 40 percent in March following the tsunami.

Toyota said Monday it is inevitable that it will be forced to suspend production at all of its North American factories due to parts shortages following the March 11 quake.
Korea Herald daum