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Hyundai's Quarter Profit More Than Doubles

Hyundai Motor, South Korea's top automaker, said on Thursday its quarterly operating profit more than doubled, fueled by higher sales and a softer won.

Hyundai, the world's No.6 automaker with Kia Motors by sales volume, posted 636.5 billion won ($670.2 million) in operating profit during the fourth quarter of 2007 ended on Dec. 31, easily beating a 473.3 billion won profit forecast by 11 analysts in a Reuters poll.

That compares with a 306.7 billion won operating profit a year ago and 314.2 billion won operating profit in the third quarter.

Hyundai's net profit during the October-December period came in at 338 billion won, well below the 501.2 billion won profit forecast in the Reuters poll.

The difference between operating and net profit came because of its loss from derivatives related to Kia shares, which fell 18.9 percent in the fourth quarter. Hyundai also bought 1.67 million of its own shares for employees as a part of a wage deal.

Analysts expect new models such as the Genesis top-end sedan, will continue to increase sales this year, especially in the higher-margin domestic market.

A weaker won currency is also expected to help Hyundai make price competitiveness gains against Japanese makers battling a stronger yen, while new factories in China and India are likely to lift sales abroad.

But Hyundai is not seen showing significant profit growth in the United States and China, the world's two biggest auto markets while higher prices of oil and raw materials are further concerns, analysts said.

Reflecting those worries, shares in Hyundai, valued at around $16 billion, lost 3.1 percent during the October-December period, slightly underperforming the wider market's 2.5 percent fall.