UPDATE 1-Guangzhou Auto says 2012 profit to fall 70-80 pct

Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:12am EST

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HONG KONG Jan 25 (Reuters) - Guangzhou Automobile Group, one of China's big state-owned auto enterprises, said it expects 2012 net profit to decline by 70 to 80 percent from a year earlier, according to a filing after markets closed on Friday.

Guangzhou Automobile, which makes cars with Japan's Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Italy's Fiat , attributed a large part of the loss to reduced sales after a political dispute between Japan and China over some East China Sea islands

Increasing competition and restrictions on car purchases in some central Chinese cities also contributed, it said.

Guangzhou Automobile's joint venture with Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A, meanwhile, said in a separate statement that its current general manager Jack Cheng will be replaced by John Burton, a British-born executive with "over 40 years of global experience in the automotive industry".

Burton's appointment will take effect on March 1, the joint venture, GAC Fiat Automobiles Co., said.

Fiat said Cheng will become China country manager for Magneti Marelli, a Fiat component subsidiary.

For full statement, here. (Reporting by Clement Tan in Hong in Hong Kong and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Jonathan Standing)

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