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Hyundai Motor logs biggest profit gain in 7 years on currency, new models

(Adds ownership context, strike potential, analyst view)

* Q2 net up 31.2% to 919.3 bln won, just missing estimates

* Weak won boosts overseas income; new model sales brisk at home

* Outlook clouded as union workers plan wage strike

SEOUL, July 22 (Reuters) – South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co on Monday posted its steepest quarterly net profit gain in over seven years, as a weaker local currency helped lift U.S. income, while new models boosted domestic sales.

Solid performance at home and in the United States helped offset a sales slump in China, where a slowing economy, trade war with the United States and a lack of competitive models prompted the automaker to suspend production at its oldest factory earlier this year.

However, the earnings recovery could weaken as Hyundai braces for a potential strike by its South Korean labour union that could disrupt supplies of models such as its Palisade sport-utility vehicle (SUV) both at home and overseas, analysts said.

April-June net profit rose 31.2% to 919.3 billion won ($780.44 million)- the biggest percentage gain since the first quarter of 2012. The result compared with the 1.03 trillion won average of 18 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.

Operating profit rose 30.2% to 1.24 trillion won while revenue rose 9.1% to 26.97 trillion won, the automaker said in a stock exchange filing.

Heir apparent Euisun Chung has been steering the profit recovery following six years of decline. The executive vice chairman is widely considered to be seeking investor support to revisit an ownership restructuring plan as he prepares to take over from his 81-year-old father and chairman.

A previous proposal was scrapped last year following shareholder opposition, notably from U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.

Helping earnings is a 5.5% drop in the value of the won versus the U.S. dollar this year, the steepest decline among Asian currencies. This has made South Korean exports more price competitive overseas and lifted the value of repatriated profit.

At home, new models such as the Palisade SUV and Sonata sedan helped sales jump 8.1%, in contrast to faltering performance at big-name foreign rivals.

The automaker plans to sell its new Palisade SUV in the United States, as it catches up with a shift in U.S. consumer preference to SUVs.

Threatening that plan, Hyundai’s South Korean union will next Monday vote whether to approve strike action after walking out of annual wage talks on Friday.

A prolonged dispute could have a greater impact on sales and earnings this year because, unlike in the past three or four years of slow growth, sales of its new models have been brisk, Samsung Securities analyst Esther Yim said in a recent report.

Hyundai shares pared losses after its earnings announcement, trading flat in line with the broader market.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)


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