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Toyota president Akio Toyoda told a group of investors that the hydrogen fuel-cell Mirai is the car for the next century. To help pay for it, Toyota is courting investors who aren't only after short-term capital gains but want to help the company long term. It will offer up to 500 billion yen ($4.2 billion US) worth of special shares in Japan that cost 20-percent more than common stock and that can't be sold for five years.

The upshot is that the shares will pay a higher dividend, still have voting rights, and they can be converted to common stock or sold back to Toyota at the issue price. The investors won't lose money. Called "Model AA" shares in honor of the company's first passenger car, the sale would help Toyota hold onto capital while it works on the next - expensive - developments.

The sale would be broken up into tranches, with 50 million potentially on offer this year after the annual shareholder's meeting. Successive sales would take place no more than once a year. The initial dividend is set at 0.5 percent and capped at 2.5 percent, which even at its lowest rate would beat that of a standard deposit account in a Japanese bank. At the moment, sales are only planned for Japan.

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