Renault chief sees return to profit next year

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French carmaker Renault is on track to start turning a profit once again next year, chief executive Carlos Ghosn told shareholders Friday as he sought a new four-year term at the company's helm.

Battered by the global slowdown that has hit the car industry head-on, Renault last year posted a net loss of 3.1 billion euros, (4.1 billion dollars) mostly due to its share in Japan's Nissan and Sweden's Volvo.

Asked by a shareholder when Renault would get out of the red, Ghosn replied "in 2011 at the latest."

Brazilian-born Ghosn, who took charge of Renault in 2005, is expected to be re-elected for another term as chairman and chief executive during a vote by shareholders that will then be endorsed by the board of directors.

The chief executive said Renault would likely reimburse before the 2014 deadline a multi-billion-euro loan from the French state to help France's number two carmaker weather the economic crisis.

"We will not wait for 2014 to reimburse it," Ghosn said.

Last year, President Nicolas Sarkozy's government rolled out an aid package of 7.8 billion euros for the car industry, of which six billion in preferential loans went to Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

The French state is Renault's biggest shareholder, with a 15-percent stake.

Ghosn, 56, was expected to discuss a recent partnership between Renault, Nissan and Daimler to exchange shares and build environmentally-friendly small cars.

© 2010 AFP

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