Hyundai fourth-quarter profit slips as U.S. discounts, emerging market slowdown bite

An employee sits in front of the logo of Hyundai Motor Co. at its dealership in Seoul, South Korea, October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's Hyundai Motor 005380.KS on Tuesday said profit fell for the eighth consecutive quarter, as it boosted discounts to revive U.S. sales and auto demand stagnated in emerging markets.

Hyundai, the world's fifth-biggest automaker along with affiliate Kia Motors Corp 000270.KS, said October-December net profit dropped to 1.63 trillion won ($1.36 billion) from 1.66 trillion won a year earlier. That was in line with the 1.6 trillion won average estimate of 15 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

With net profit for 2015 coming in at 6.42 trillion won, last year’s result was Hyundai’s lowest annual profit in five years, and the firm warned the outlook for 2016 remains clouded.

“We expect the uncertainty surrounding the global auto market to persist this year,” Hyundai said in a statement.

The automaker ratcheted up inventories and sales incentives in the fourth quarter as it boosted year-end output to stave off a drop in annual sales, analysts said.

Fourth-quarter operating profit dropped 19 percent to 1.52 trillion won, Hyundai said, while revenue rose 5 percent to 24.76 trillion won.

Shares in Hyundai were 1.5 percent lower, compared with the wider market’s 1.2 percent decline, after the earnings announcement.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell