GM sees 2012 market share gains in China, Korea

DETROIT Mon Jan 9, 2012 5:05pm EST

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DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) expects to post market share gains this year in both China and South Korea, a top GM executive said on Monday.

"I see us growing with the markets and I see us taking share," Tim Lee, president of GM's international operations, told reporters at the Detroit auto show.

Lee said 2012 sales should be better than last year in the international division which includes China, the world's largest auto market and a crucial part of GM's growth strategy.

GM's international operations division had sales of 3.7 million vehicles last year, of which 2.5 million were in China.

GM said it increased its market share in China to market-leading 13.6 percent last year from 12.7 percent in 2010.

"We picked up considerable share in China in 2011 and we expect we'll do similarly in 2012 because we have a lot of (vehicle) launches," Lee said.

GM's sales in China rose 8 percent last year. The automaker has previously said it expects sales growth of 5 to 10 percent in China this year.

Lee also said GM still has the option to raise its ownership stake in Shanghai GM, its Chinese joint venture with SAIC Motor (600104.SS), by 1 point to 50 percent. He declined to reveal what he called a "predictable" timetable.

GM has said it wants to buy back the stake it sold to SAIC in 2010 for about $85 million. Shanghai GM commands the leading position in the Chinese auto market.

Under the terms of its deal with SAIC, which was negotiated in 2009 when GM was looking to raise cash and avoid bankruptcy, GM has an option to buy back the 1 percent stake it sold in Shanghai GM. SAIC is the majority shareholder in the China joint venture with a 51 percent holding.

"We intend to exercise that call option," Lee said on Monday. "We're working on that with our partner."

In South Korea, GM had market share of 10 percent in December 2011. For full-year 2011, GM's market share in that country was 8.9 percent.

"There's no reason we shouldn't have double-digit share in Korea," Lee said.

GM shares dipped 8 cents on Monday to close at $22.84.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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