South Korean sport utility vehicle maker Ssangyong Motor has posted a 33-fold rise in net profit for the first nine months from a year ago, aided by strong sales of its new Rexton model, Reuters reported.

But, Reuters noted citing analysts, despite the impressive improvement, the company's survival still remains in doubt after it was rescued by creditors under a $US1.1 billion debt-to-equity swap late last year.

The Rexton is the most expensive SUV in South Korea -- selling for about 30-40 million won ($27,000-$33,000) -- after heavy renovation of the earlier Musso model, Reuters said.

Ssangyong made 187.4 billion won ($153.1 million) in net profit for the January-September period, up from 5.7 billion won a year ago, Reuters said, adding that sales jumped to 2.47 trillion won from 1.65 trillion won a year earlier as demand for SUVs surged along with increased leisure time as the country starts adopting a five-day working week.

According to Reuters, for the third quarter, Ssangyong said it earned 67 billion won in net profit, against a net loss of 8.8 billion won a year ago.

"Rexton alone accounted for about half of the sales in the first nine months," Song Sang Hoon, an analyst at Hyundai Securities, told Reuters. Sales of the Korando SUV also increased, Reuters added.

Apart from brisk sales of high value-added SUVs, aggressive marketing and strenuous cost-cutting efforts also paid off, company officials and analysts told Reuters.

Reuters said Ssangyong creditors, including the main creditor Chohung Bank, have built up a 57% stake in the carmaker via a debt-to-equity swap deal since it was spun off from the now-defunct Daewoo Group in 2000.

In September, the creditors said they would press on with plans to sell the SUV maker after a would-be foreign buyer withdrew interest, Reuters said.

Analysts told Reuters that Ssangyong's capacity, estimated at 180,000 units a year, appeared to be too small to secure economies of scale in the crowded vehicle industry.

"Creditors' exposure to Ssangyong is quite high. We can't expect banks to be patient in this case," Song told Reuters. "Still, the sale of the company looks the best solution."

With an engine and royalties deal with Mercedes-Benz not expiring until next year, other vehicle makers are reluctant to take over Ssangyong, analysts told Reuters, which added that Mercedes parent DaimlerChrysler holds a 1.2% stake in Ssangyong.

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), or operating profit, rose to 232.4 billion won over the nine-month period from 112.4 billion a year ago, Ssangyong said, according to Reuters.

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