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PARIS Renault's (RENA.PA) first-half vehicle sales rose 4.7 percent, as a European rebound offset a slump in emerging-market demand, reversing the carmaker's recent market trends.
Renault's global sales increased to 1.37 million vehicles, the company said on Monday, boosted by the success of its new Clio small car and compact crossovers in its wider home region even as France lagged.
Until last year, Renault had drawn on emerging-market growth to resist the worst of a prolonged European slump during which demand sank to a two-decade low.
Sales increased 18 percent in Europe and dropped 9 percent in the rest of the world, Renault said, with its no-frills Dacia division becoming Europe's fastest-growing brand.
"As a result, Renault is able to diminish the impact of the decline in our main emerging markets," sales chief Jerome Stoll said in a statement.
Renault shares rose 2.5 percent to 72.34 euros at 1031 GMT, while the wider auto sector .SXAP was little changed.
For European automakers, the overseas outlook is clouding just as a long-awaited recovery takes hold at home. Weaker economies and currencies among emerging markets are hurting sales and the value of earnings converted back into euros.
Russia, Renault's second-biggest market a year ago, dropped to third place in the first half of 2014. Argentina fell from fifth to eighth place, Algeria from sixth to eleventh and Turkey from seventh to ninth.
The carmaker said its market share in emerging countries was broadly "holding firm" as demand weakens.
"It's a pretty solid set of numbers," Credit Suisse analyst Mike Dean said. "We've seen a slight pickup in pace - but it will be interesting to see how this translates into revenue."
Renault is due to publish full financial results for the first half on July 29.
Models such as the no-frills Dacia Duster crossover helped the company gain ground against competitors in Latin America and the so-called Eurasia region, which has Russia at its core.
Deliveries fell a modest 2 percent in Brazil and Argentina, as Renault resisted the 9 percent market contraction. Sales nonetheless tumbled 7 percent in Eurasia and 15 percent in African and Mediterranean markets outside Europe.
Europe's first-half gain was driven largely by new models such as the Renault Clio small car and Captur mini-crossover, as well as the low-cost Duster and Sandero models.
The growth shift to Europe did not dent demand for Renault's budget lineup, which saw global sales rise 8.7 percent and now accounts for almost 42 percent of group production. Sales of mid-market and upscale models rose just 2 percent.
Renault predicted that French growth would trail behind the rest of Europe, now seen expanding 3-4 percent this year. For France alone, Stoll maintained the 1 percent growth forecast he had made for the whole region in January.
The group still expects to meet full-year goals to increase global vehicle sales and European market share, Stoll said.
(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Leila Abboud)
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