Hyundai Motor's 1Q profit halved on grim US, China sales

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2018 file photo, an employee of Hyundai Motor Co. waits for customers at the company's showroom in Seoul, South Korea. Hyundai Motor said Thursday, April 26, 2018 its first-quarter profit has plunged to the lowest level in more than eight years as sales dwindled in the United States and China. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — Hyundai Motor said Thursday that its first-quarter profit plunged to its lowest level in more than eight years as sales dwindled in the United States and China.

South Korea's largest automaker said its January-March earnings sank a larger-than-expected 48 percent to 731.6 billion won ($677.3 million), compared with 1.4 trillion won a year earlier.

The result was far below the market consensus. Analysts expected 942.1 billion won in quarterly earnings, according to financial data provider FactSet.

Quarterly profit was nearly halved as car sales in China and the United States sank further. The company also blamed the local currency's steep rise against the U.S. dollar and a walkout by its union.

Sales fell 4 percent to 22.4 trillion won ($20.7 billion) while operating income also sank 46 percent to 681.3 billion won ($631 million) during the three-month period.

Its first-quarter car sales fell 2 percent from a year earlier to 1.05 million units.

The maker of Tucson and Sonata is banking on the release of new SUV models to revive sales. While the first-quarter sales in the U.S. slumped 31 percent from a year earlier and dropped 17 percent in China, the South Korean automaker said there were a few bright spots.

In China, monthly sales turned positive in March from a year earlier after Hyundai released some new models there. In the U.S., Hyundai's inventory levels have begun to show signs of stabilization, it said. Hyundai has been spending big on incentives in the U.S. market as competition heightened.

The company hopes global sales of its latest Santa Fe SUV model will help improve its bottom line.

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