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Mitsubishi Motors posts surprise third-quarter operating loss as car sales slide

The logo of Mitsubishi Motors Corp is displayed at the company's showroom in Tokyo, Japan January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp 7211.T on Friday posted a surprise operating loss in the third quarter, its worst quarterly performance in more than three years, hurt by falling sales in China, Japan and Southeast Asia, as well as a stronger yen.

The carmaker posted an operating loss of 6.6 billion yen ($60.2 million) for the October-December quarter, missing an average forecast for a profit of 11.6 billion yen, based on analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.

It was the firm’s biggest loss since the July-September 2016 quarter, when a mileage cheating scandal sapped profits.

However, Mitsubishi stuck to an earlier forecast for a 73% drop in full-year operating profit to 30 billion yen in the year to March.

The automaker’s net loss for the quarter just ended came in at 14.4 billion yen.

The fall in quarterly sales was worst in China and at home, while sales also slipped in ASEAN countries, traditionally a stronghold, leading to a 16% fall in global vehicle sales to 320,000 units.

The automaker also said it would keep some of its offices in China closed through Feb. 9, as a new coronavirus spreads throughout the country and beyond.

The automaking alliance of Mitsubishi, Renault RENA.PA and Nissan 7201.T on Thursday said they had "no other option" but to drastically improve their joint operations to remain competitive in the fast-changing global auto industry.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; editing by Richard Pullin