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Toyota's Global Opportunities, Efficiency Boosts Make It a Buy

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Toyota (TM - Get Report) may have it origins in Japan, but looking at its first quarter fiscal 2015 results -- which were published earlier today -- it is a global company now. Just 23% of Toyota's vehicle sales were in Japan during the three months reported, and even those fell 20% year-on-year. By contrast, over 30% of vehicle sales were in North America. Operating profits were up in the region, as well as in Europe and Asia, while Japanese profits slumped 20% year-on-year.

So is everything good for one of the world's best known automotive brands?

Yes and no. Toyota is doing well, but it has two big opportunities too.

The first is the lackluster Japanese economy. Yes, you read that correctly. Bad is actually good.

Here's why. Japan has to further stimulate its economy to go forward by undertaking more of the policies that the Federal Reserve has used in recent years to help the American economy. That means more quantitative easing, and more attempts to boost inflation to encourage spending.

Now maybe this leads to a few more car sales in Japan -- but that is not my main point. This should lead to a lower Japanese yen. For a company which, per the penultimate page of their presentation deck, still makes over 36% of its overall vehicle production in Japan, that's great news. It makes exports more competitive.

Additionally, with the company reiterating sales and earnings hopes for the fiscal 2014 to 2015 year, the good recent trends in the North American and European businesses are expected to continue. Profits here in dollars, pounds or euros are likely to be in stronger currencies. 

That's good news for all international investors in Toyota -- like those investing in Toyota's American depositary receipt, TM.

Now, Toyota is not the only beneficiary of this. All of its Japanese auto-sector peers like Nissan (NSANY) and Honda (HMC) have exactly the same opportunity.

But there's one specific opportunity Toyota has over its peers.

Toyota has not done a great job in improving its business efficiency. Sure, it cited the benefits of "cost cutting" in helping to boost its North American, European and Asian (ex-Japan) profitability. But look at the numbers overall. The rise in the cost of marketing and general expenses over the last year was higher than the cost reduction and foreign exchange boosts -- unlike with Toyota's peers.

That is not good enough -- and the company knows this. The good news for investors is that any improvements here should be good for the share price, as the benefits should flow to the bottom line.

So if you put it all together, there are reasons to be looking at Toyota even if you are not in the market for a new car.

At the time of publication, the author was long TM, although positions may change at any time.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

TheStreet Ratings team rates TOYOTA MOTOR CORP as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate TOYOTA MOTOR CORP (TM) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 19.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 44.1%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • TOYOTA MOTOR CORP has improved earnings per share by 16.8% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, TOYOTA MOTOR CORP increased its bottom line by earning $11.17 versus $6.46 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($12.60 versus $11.17).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry average. The net income increased by 17.1% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $2,737.00 million to $3,204.00 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 61.50% to $9,495.00 million when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 24.09%.

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