GM posts higher-than-expected profit on strong North American demand – Reuters

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2014

DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Co (GM.N) on Thursday reported a higher-than-expected profit in the third quarter on strong demand for its redesigned full-size pickup trucks in North America.

“Solid results really continue to be driven by strength in North America and China,” GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters at the company’s Detroit headquarters.

“Clearly, high transaction prices – the new trucks and SUVs are more profitable than the ones they replace – that certainly helps,” he added.

Shares in the No. 1 U.S. automaker rose 1.5 percent to $31.79 in early trade.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas lauded GM’s “Audi-style” profit margins in North America that approach German luxury levels. However, he added investors should consider exiting the stock, citing a dial-down of European growth and increased pressures on the key U.S. market.

“We believe no (automaker) with global exposure can confidently offer guidance for the 2015 period,” he said. “This is not just a GM issue.”

Higher pricing on GM’s vehicles resulted in a $600 million gain in the quarter. It launched new versions of its full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks last year and followed those with other updated SUVs on the same vehicle platform earlier this year.

Stevens said GM remained on or ahead of its financial forecast from January, when it said it would see a slight increase in pretax profit this year.

The quarter did not include any charges for costs related to the record number of recalls this year as GM has already booked them. The massive recall for defective ignition switches are linked to at least 29 deaths.

Net income rose to $1.38 billion, or 81 cents a share, from $698 million, or 45 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, GM earned 97 cents a share, 2 cents above what analysts expected, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The quarter included $300 million in special items for flood damage sustained at the company’s technical center outside Detroit and the writedown of assets in Russia.

Revenue rose slightly to about $39.3 billion from $39 billion. Analysts expected $39.8 billion.

GM reported a profit margin of 9.5 percent in North America, the fifth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth.

GM said average transaction prices in the U.S. market and vehicle sales in China reached record highs in the quarter. It is getting almost $4,000 more per full-size pickup than it was before the new model was introduced.

In North America, operating earnings in the quarter rose 12 percent to $2.45 billion

Earnings at GM’s international operations, including China, fell about 20 percent to $259 million. However, GM’s equity income in China rose 14 percent to $484 million.

The loss in Europe, which included $200 million in restructuring costs, widened by about $150 million as the Russian market continued to struggle.

GM posted a loss of $32 million in South America and Stevens said GM remained focused on cutting costs in the region.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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