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Hyundai Motor's 4Q profit up 13 per cent but 2013 profit inches down

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SEOUL, South Korea - Hyundai Motor Co. said its fourth-quarter profit increased 13 per cent over a year earlier thanks to higher overseas sales.

But its earnings for the whole of 2013 fell, underlining Hyundai's waning popularity among Korean consumers and labour strife.

South Korea's largest automaker said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit reached 2.1 trillion won ($2 billion) compared with 1.9 trillion won a year earlier.

Hyundai's 2013 profit dropped 1 per cent to 9 trillion won. Hyundai blamed lower demand from domestic consumers and production disruptions caused by strikes. Automakers from Europe and the U.S. expanded their sales in South Korea by introducing cheaper models and benefiting from free trade deals that phased out tariffs.

Hyundai, the maker of Genesis sedan, also attributed currency rates for its lower annual profit. The South Korean won posted gains against the U.S. dollar while Japanese automakers enjoyed the benefits of a cheaper yen as a result of the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary easing.

Sales for the fourth quarter dipped 3 per cent to 21.9 trillion won. For the whole of 2013, sales increased 3 per cent to 87.3 trillion won.

Forecasting intense competition from foreign brands trying to erode its market share in South Korea, Hyundai said its growth in 2014 would come from overseas markets. It aims to sell 4.9 million vehicles this year, up from 4.7 million last year.

The annual goal represents 4 per cent growth from 2013, slowing from the previous year. In 2013, Hyundai's auto sales rose 7 per cent. Hyundai said the modest goal reflects a slow growth forecast in both emerging and developed nations.

The Korean automaker unveiled a new Genesis sedan to expand in the premium car segment and to make its brand known among premium car customers. It is expected to announce an upgrade of its mainstay Sonata model later this year.

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