The Renault Sports RS01 Hannelore Foerster, Getty Images

FINANCIAL ROUNDUP: Renault Stock Plunges 20% After Anti-Fraud Raids

Plus, Russian auto sales projected to remain in deep slump. ... Reported Apple supplier TSMC posts record annual profits. ... Nokia aims to buy out remaining 20% of Alcatel-Lucent.

PARIS — Shares in Renault suffered a meltdown on the Paris stock exchange on Thursday after anti-fraud raids at the carmaker, which unions said might be linked to emissions foul play.

Renault shares were down 18% at 71.20 in afternoon trading, having earlier hit a low of 67 euros — a loss in the company’s value that analysts put at around 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion).

“The news triggered a massive selling movement, it’s a disaster that’s pulling everybody down,” said one Paris-based analyst, referring to plunging auto stocks across Europe. “Usually, about 1 million Renault shares change hands in a trading day, and we’ve had 2.7 million already today This fall of 20% represents a loss in market capitalization of about 4 billion euros, which is colossal.”

Earlier, unions reported that French anti-fraud detectives have raided several production sites of Renault, possibly to investigate emissions foul play.

Russian auto sales seen falling after 36% slump in 2015

MOSCOW — Car sales in Russia will fall further in 2016 as the economic crisis cripples demand, an industry group said Thursday, following a dramatic plunge by nearly 36% last year. 

Automakers sold about 1.6 million cars in 2015, the Association of European Businesses said, a decrease of 35.7% in comparison to the previous year. Assuming no major change in government policy, the association expects a further drop of 4.7% this year.

“It was a difficult year,” the association’s auto committee chairman Joerg Schreiber said at a briefing. “The market has not yet stabilized but the rate of the fall has weakened.”

Western sanctions and falling oil prices have contributed to a slump in the Russian economy unseen since the country defaulted in 1998, with the vast majority of Russians now unable to afford a car as their purchasing power has eroded. Russia’s auto sales had been growing rapidly with a record of 3 million cars sold in 2012. But three years later, the market has shrunk by a total of 45% and now ranks fifth in Europe.

Taiwan chipmaker TSMC posts record profits for 2015

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Chipmaking giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. posted record profits for 2015 on Thursday, despite a slowdown in the second half of the year due to weaker global demand. The results came off the back of orders from Apple in the first half, analysts said.

Net profits in 2015 totaled Tw$306.6 billion ($9.2 billion), up 16.2% from the previous year, while revenues rose 10.6% to Tw$843.5 billion, the firm said. Chips used in telecommunications accounted for more than 60% of shipments and grew 16% year-on-year. Those used in computers fell 15%.

TSMC is the world’s biggest contract microchip producer and is known to be a supplier to Apple. It has declined to comment on its shipments to individual companies, but analysts estimate it provides about half of the A9 chips being used in Apple’s iPhone 6s.

“The main driver of TSMC’s robust growth last year was the orders from Apple,” Mason Li of Taihsin Securities Investment Advisory Co, told AFP. “But the demand for iPhones was on the decline in the second half of last year. That was a critical factor for the slowdown.”   

Nokia seeks to mop up remaining shares in Alcatel-Lucent bid

HELSINKI — Finnish telecom group Nokia said Thursday it had reopened its offer to shareholders of newly acquired rival Alcatel-Lucent in a bid to take over 100% of the Franco-American company.

The terms of the renewed public exchange offer – open from Jan. 14 until Feb. 3 — remain the same as during the initial offer period, Nokia said in a statement. Once the world’s top mobile phone maker, Nokia gained control of nearly 80% of Alcatel-Lucent last week. It hopes the merger will help it become the leading network equipment and service provider.

“With the deal closed and the integration of the two companies moving forward from today, we firmly believe that it is in the best interests of any remaining Alcatel-Lucent securities holders to tender their shares,” Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said in the statement.

The Finnish company’s offer remains 0.55 Nokia shares for each Alcatel-Lucent share.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016

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