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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. announced Tuesday it will become the first Japanese automaker to assemble cars in Russia.

The carmaker said it will build a plant with an initial annual production capacity of around 50,000 units in St. Petersburg’s Shushary district.

When manufacturing operations begin in December 2007, the plant will initially produce the Camry at a pace of about 20,000 a year, Toyota said.

The cars will be sold in Russia through Toyota’s Moscow-based sales company, which was established in April 2002 and now has 22 dealers and four service centers.

Toyota has yet to decide which additional models it will build at the plant, but it has already secured approximately 220 hectares of land in preparation for future expansion.

An initial investment of about 15 billion yen is planned for the project, which is expected to create some 500 jobs.

Toyota wants to expand its share of the fast-growing Russian auto market, while Russian industry officials expect the plant to stimulate Japanese investment in Russia, Toyota executives said.

The automaker said it chose St. Petersburg due to its proximity to Europe as well as its advanced infrastructure and workforce.

Attending a news conference to announce the plan was Toyota Senior Managing Director Tokuichi Uranishi and Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.

In Russia last year, Toyota sold 47,000 units of such models as the Camry, Corolla and Avensis.

Dividend may go up

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. may carry out a dividend increase of more than 10 yen per share for the business year just ended to pass greater benefits on to its shareholders, sources said Tuesday.

Toyota paid 45 yen for fiscal 2003.

Japan’s largest automaker will release its earnings results for fiscal 2004 on May 10. They are expected to include a group net profit of around 1.2 trillion yen, making it the second consecutive year the firm has secured more than 1 trillion yen.

The robust earnings reflect strong global sales despite a difficult business environment that includes the yen’s appreciation and higher prices for steel products since last fall.

Although Toyota is likely to report a drop in net profit on a parent-only basis in fiscal 2004, it will take group results into account for its dividend policy, the sources said.

Toyota is also expected to announce its consolidated earnings projection for the first time when it releases the fiscal 2004 results.

The automaker has never released group earnings projections on the grounds they tend to be affected by such factors as foreign-exchange rates. With the dividend hike and the disclosure of its consolidated earnings projection, Toyota hopes to lure more investors.

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