SHANGHAI, March 28 SAIC Motor Corp Ltd , China's biggest automaker by sales, reported on Thursday a 2.6 percent rise in profit last year, its slowest growth since 2008, weighed down by a slowing economy and increasing competition from local rivals.
SAIC, a long-time partner of General Motors Co and Volkswagen AG, made 20.8 billion yuan in profit for 2012, up from 20.2 billion yuan a year earlier. That compared with the average forecast of 21.4 billion yuan in a Thomson Reuters poll of 13 analysts.
SAIC, which focuses mostly on the domestic market, is facing growing competition from much smaller rivals Geely and Great Wall Motor, whose earnings have been bolstered by their export business.
Net profits at Geely and Great Wall surged 32 percent and 66 percent, respectively, last year.
SAIC's Shanghai-listed shares closed at 15.2 yuan on Thursday, up 2.1 percent before the release of its annual earnings, outperforming a 2.8 percent fall of the broader Shanghai Composite Index. (Reporting by Fang Yan in BEIJING, Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI; Editing by Chris Gallagher)