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Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday its group net profit logged a year-on-year surge of 23 percent in the first half, hitting a best-ever 524.46 billion yen, on record sales.

Japan’s largest automaker attributed the rise to a 110 billion yen cost-cutting effort in its manufacturing and distribution operations, as well as to a boost in car sales.

Although the yen rose against the dollar in the April-September period, the weakening of the yen against the euro and other currencies offset the negative impact of the former, company officials said.

Pretax profit jumped 13.7 percent to 812.01 billion yen, while operating profit leaped 12.1 percent to 767.77 billion yen.

The firm will pay an interim dividend of 20 yen per share, up from 16 yen a year earlier.

Sales came to a record 8.22 trillion yen, up 8 percent, with sales volume up 7.4 percent to 3.17 million vehicles worldwide.

These figures include sales by two Toyota subsidiaries — minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd.

Domestic shipments rose 5.6 percent to 1.08 million vehicles, supported by the launch of new models such as the Wish minivan and the Raum compact.

Toyota’s share of the domestic market, excluding minivehicles, stood at 42.5 percent at the end of September, up 0.4 percentage point from a year earlier.

Overseas sales jumped 8.4 percent to 2.09 million vehicles. Sales in North America were flat at 1.01 million units, while those in Europe jumped 12.5 percent to 441,122 units, thanks to the success of the remodeled Avensis sedan.

Takeshi Suzuki, a Toyota managing officer, said the aggressive expansion of the carmaker’s overseas operations was crucial to the good results.

The firm hopes to report record earnings for fiscal 2003 as a whole, he added.

If the yen stays stronger in the second half than it did in the previous year, the carmaker will be able to cover the negative impact by increasing sales and by slashing operating costs further, Suzuki said.

The firm expects to sell 6.57 million vehicles worldwide in fiscal 2003, up 7.5 percent from fiscal 2002.

For the full business year, Toyota revised upward its unconsolidated earnings projections.

It now forecasts a net profit of 510 billion yen, up 15.9 percent from its May projection, and an operating profit of 720 billion yen, up 16.1 percent from its previous forecast.

Sales are expected to reach 8.7 trillion yen, up 4.8 percent.

Toyota did not disclose consolidated earnings projections for fiscal 2003.

The firm began reporting consolidated earnings results calculated on the basis of generally accepted U.S. accounting principles beginning in fiscal 2003.

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