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Hyundai's First-Quarter Operating Profit Slips on Weak Sales

Hyundai Motor, South Korea's top automaker, on Wednesday posted a fourth consecutive fall in operating profit, hit by weaker sales amid a labor dispute, higher raw material costs and a firmer won currency.

Hyundai, the world's sixth-largest carmaker with affiliate Kia Motors, earned January-March operating profit of 291.4 billion won ($313.1 million), beating the 281 billion won forecast by eight analysts in a Reuters poll.

That compared to 335.3 billion won profit a year ago and 306.7 billion won in October-December.

First-quarter net profit fell 10.2% although Hyundai narrowed its derivatives losses and paid less corporate tax than a year earlier.

The maker of the Sonata sedan is expected to see earnings improve this year as local sales, which carry more margin, may grow slightly and on increased sales of higher-end models such as the Grandeur.

Shares in Hyundai, valued at more than $14 billion, fell 1.9% in January-March, while the broader market rose 1.3%.