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Hyundai Motor says April sales seen down 13 pct

By Staff
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SEOUL, May 1 (Reuters) Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's top auto maker, said on Monday its April sales were expected to be down about 13 percent from the previous month, hit by the country's probe into the company and its affiliates.

On Friday, South Korea arrested Chung Mong-koo, the chairman of Hyundai Motor group, the world's number-seven automaker, on charge of misusing company funds. Analysts fear the arrest could create a leadership vacuum at the group.

Hyundai, which makes the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe sport utility vehicle, sold about 215,000 vehicles in April, down from a provisional 246,126 units in March, a Hyundai spokesman said.

The firm sold about 45,000 vehicles at home in April, down from a provisional 51,462 in the previous month, and exported some 170,000 unit, also down from 194,664.

Hyundai sold 44,737 vehicles at home and 168,142 April in 2005.

''We may not be free from a temporary shock at home and abroad for the time being due to the investigation, although sales are expected to be stable when the chairman comes back to the management,'' Jake Jang, Hyundai's spokesman, said by telephone.

He said the company, which aims to be the world's fifth-largest auto maker by 2010 along with its affiliate Kia Motors Corp., will announce the result of April sales on Tuesday with other auto makers.

South Korean prosecutors have been investigating the group since the end of March over allegations it operated slush funds and offered cash for political favours via a lobbyist.

The probe has also touched on how sprawling family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, shift money within group firms, using complex share ownership networks to control their businesses.

Shares in Hyundai, South Korea's sixth-biggest stock with a .2 billion market value, closed down 1.78 percent to 82,900 won on Friday, compared to the wider market's 2.26 percent drop.

South Korea's financial markets were closed on Monday to mark Labour day.

REUTERS MP VC1758

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