GM Q1 earnings up but miss analysts’ estimates – USA TODAY
DETROIT — General Motors (GM) earned $945 million in the first quarter of 2015, more than four times better than the $214 million a year earlier, but below Wall Street’s expectations.
Revenue for the three-month period fell 4.5% to $35.7 billion, mainly because of a Venezuelan currency devaluation and the economic downturn in Russia where GM announced last month it would stop nearly all manufacturing, the company said Thursday.
Profits in North America and China more than made up for losses in Europe and South America.
On an earnings per share basis, which is the figure investors watch closely, GM earned 86 cents before special charges. The consensus of analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters was 97 cents per share.
But it was the company’s best first quarter since it exited bankruptcy in 2009.
“Our results in the first quarter provide a solid foundation to achieve our financial commitments for the year,” GM CEO Mary Barra said.
In North America GM made $2.2 billion before income, nearly triple the year-ago figure and the seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year improvement. The North American pre-tax profit margin was 8.8% up from 7.7% a year earlier, reflecting consumers’ preference for larger vehicles, especially pickup trucks and SUVs which generate larger profits.
“Key vehicles like our recently launched full and midsize trucks, and our cost discipline, helped us deliver a solid quarter,” said Chuck Stevens, GM chief financial officer.
Analysts were more cautious. James Albertine, analyst for brokerage Stifel, has GM shares rated as a “hold” and he expresses concern in a note to investors about pricing deterioration in GM’s critical North American market. Its next round of new models will be focused on those that are less profitable.
Barclays analyst Brian Johnson says in a note that while GM fell short of analysts’ expectations, it shows plenty of hope — especially in turning around the South American market and bringing fresh new models to Europe.
The company’s loss in Europe narrowed slightly to $239 million before taxes from $284 million a year earlier, but in South America, its loss grew to $214 million from $156 million.
After announcing plans to buy back $5 billion of its shares in early March, GM has repurchased 19.4 million shares as of April 21. In addition GM paid dividends of about $500 million to shareholders in the first three months of the year.
The estimated cost of the GM Ignition Compensation Fund was raised by $150 million to $550 million. The fund, administered by Ken Feinberg, has about 1,000 claims left to review from people who contend they or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident caused by a defective ignition switch in one of 2.5 million small cars recalled last year.
International Operations, which includes China, the rest of Asia, the Middle and Africa, earned $371 million, up from $252 million a year earlier. China accounted for most of that where GM’s profit margin from its joint ventures was 9.9%. GM’s China sales rose 9% from a year earlier.
Contributing: Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY