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(2nd LD) Hyundai Motor halts operations at plant following coronavirus case

All Headlines 16:51 February 28, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from union official in 4th para, details in paras 8-11, stock prices in 6th para)

SEOUL, Feb. 28 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's biggest carmaker by sales, said Friday it has halted operations at one of its domestic plants after an employee there was diagnosed with the new coronavirus.

Hyundai Motor immediately brought work at the No. 2 plant in the southeastern port city of Ulsan to a halt, and it is in an emergency meeting with its union to discuss follow-up measures, according to the company and the union.

"The infected worker belongs to the 300-member paint shop of the No. 2 plant. The company is checking with whom the worker has come in contact with in the plant," a union spokesman said over the phone.

This photo taken Feb. 7, 2020, shows Hyundai Motor's main plant in Ulsan, 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The infected employee visited a health center in the Ulsan plant and used a restaurant also frequented by fellow workers from other plants, he said.

The confirmation of COVID-19 case is expected to deal a further blow to the carmaker, which is already suffering from a shortage of parts from China due to the outbreak there.

The news sent Hyundai Motor shares 5 percent lower to 115,000 won, far underperforming the broader KOSPI's 3.3 percent loss.

At the No. 2 plant, which hires 4,000 workers, Hyundai produces the Palisade SUV and the GV80 SUV under its independent Genesis brand.

Hyundai has strengthened its SUV lineup to enhance its profitability and meet rising demand for recreational vehicles in global markets.

The company has strengthened its SUV lineup with the Palisade and the Genesis GV80 and plans to add new models such as the Tucson and the Genesis GV70 this year, as well as an all-electric model under the independent brand Genesis next year.

In 2020, the maker of the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe SUV aims to sell a total of 4.58 million vehicles in global markets. The target is 3.5 percent higher than the 4.42 million units it sold last year.

For the whole of 2019, Hyundai's net profit nearly doubled to 3.26 trillion won from 1.65 trillion won a year earlier helped by robust sales of the flagship Palisade.

Hyundai has seven domestic plants -- five in Ulsan, one in Asan and one in Jeonju -- and 10 overseas plants -- four in China and one each in the United States, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Russia, India and Brazil. Their combined capacity reaches 5.5 million vehicles.

Hyundai halted all of its local plants on Feb. 7 and kept them suspended through Feb. 10 as their parts suppliers in China stopped production during an extended Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 24 to Feb. 9.

It was the first time that Hyundai had suspended all domestic plants since 1997, when the Asian financial crisis affected local manufacturers and Mando Corp. stopped supplying parts to the carmaker.

South Korea reported 256 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the total number of infected to 2,022.

This photo provided by Hyundai Motor shows the Palisade SUV. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE)(Yonhap)


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