June 19, 2024

G.M.’s Earnings Triple in First Quarter

Earnings were higher than expected, and included $1.9 billion in one-time gains for the sale of G.M.’s ownership interests in the Delphi parts maker and the Ally Financial credit company. G.M. also took charges of $500 million related to its international operations.

Earnings were $1.77 a share, compared with 55 cents in the quarter a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings of $1.73 a share.

Without the charges and gains, the automaker earned about $1.7 billion, its best quarterly performance in more than a decade. In the quarter a year ago, G.M. reported a profit of $865 million.

“We are on plan,” Daniel F. Akerson, G.M.’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “G.M. has delivered five consecutive profitable quarters, thanks to strong customer demand for our new fuel-efficient vehicles and a competitive cost structure that allows us to leverage our strong brands around the world and focus on driving profitable automotive growth.”

G.M. said revenue in the quarter increased 15 percent to $36.2 billion , and it ended the quarter with $30.6 billion in cash reserves. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected revenue of $35.59 billion.

The company’s core North American operations, once a huge trouble spot, reported earnings before interest and taxes of $2.9 billion, compared to $1.2 billion a year ago.

It also reported pretax profits of $100 million in South America, and $500 million for its overseas unit in Asia. The company’s lone regional loss was recorded in Europe, where G.M. said it had a $400 million pretax loss.

The strong first-quarter earnings resulted from steadily improving vehicle sales in the United States, and a considerably lower debt load since G.M. emerged from its government-sponsored bankruptcy in 2009.

The earnings follow a $4.7 billion profit in 2010, the first profitable year for G.M., a Detroit automaker, since 2004.

G.M.’s sales in the United States increased 25 percent in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2010. The overall industry, by comparison, went up about 20 percent. But the company is still spending more than its rivals on incentives. In April, G.M. spent about $3,000 in incentives on each car and truck it sold, versus about $2,100 for the industry average, according to Edmunds.com   

The company has benefited from a better lineup of fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles in an environment where the national average for gasoline is almost $4 a gallon.

The new Chevrolet Cruze, for example, has been G.M.’s most successful entry in the compact car segment in years. G.M. has also transitioned away from large, seven-passenger S.U.V.’s to smaller crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox.

Industry analysts said that G.M. gained sales early in the year with higher incentives but has since backed off costly rebates. “For G.M., the first quarter was good, but the second quarter should be better,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto-research Web site Edmunds.com. “G.M. has already dropped incentive spending below $1,000 a car for some models.”

The automaker has also reduced excess capacity in its assembly plants, and cut tens of thousands of jobs through buyouts and early retirements. Its break-even point in the United States has been lowered to about two million vehicles, a sales goal that it should achieve easily this year.

With Japanese automakers struggling to maintain inventory levels in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, G.M. is in position to make further gains in the American market. Its share in April was about 20 percent, more than a percentage point higher than the period a year earlier.

Automakers have reported a recent surge in sales, in part because of new improved models of small, fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles. Earlier this week, automakers reported that car sales in April were up 18 percent from the month a year ago as the demand for compact and subcompact cars kept the industry on track for a slow but steady recovery from recession-era sales levels.

G.M.’s American sales rose 27 percent in April. Chrysler said its sales increased 23 percent and Ford reported a 16 percent increase.

The first quarter performance exceeded Ford’s $2.55 billion profit in the period. But G.M. is a much healthier and better positioned company than it has been for at least a decade. And given the quake-related troubles at Toyota, G.M. could retake the crown as the world’s largest automaker this year.

G.M.’s future performance will probably determine how soon the Treasury Department will sell more of its nearly 26 percent stake.

For several weeks the company’s stock has been below the $33-a-share initial public offering price, although on Wednesday it closed at $33.04. The Treasury Department will be permitted to sell some or all of its remaining 500 million G.M. shares beginning on May 22 — the day its lockup period expires after last fall’s public offering.

Going forward, Mr. Akerson said, G.M. was concentrating on cutting costs in its product development processes, primarily by reducing complexity in engineering and manufacturing new vehicles. “I won’t say the fruit is hanging low, but it’s within a fair reach for us,” he said during a conference call with analysts.

He also characterized this summer’s contract talks with the United Auto Workers as “critically important” to staying competitive with American factories operated by foreign automakers. He said that G.M., as well as the U.A.W. union, want to make “these negotiations a plus and not a negative.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8b862e3270be16001898f6e00a8092c8

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