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VOL. 42 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 20, 2018

GM 1Q earnings fall 60 pct. but company beats estimates

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DETROIT (AP) — General Motors' first-quarter net income fell 60 percent from a year ago, but the company handily beat Wall Street estimates as U.S. sales rose.

The Detroit automaker says it made just over $1 billion from January through March, or 77 cents per share. A year ago the company made $2.6 billion, or $1.70 per share.

But excluding one-time costs such as restructuring in South Korea, the company made $1.43 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $1.24.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $36.1 billion. Analysts predicted $34.5 billion.

GM says earnings and revenue fell because shipments to dealers dropped as factories were closed to retool for new full-size pickup trucks. But GM's U.S. sales from dealers to buyers rose 3.8 percent.

Shares fell just under 1 percent in Thursday premarket trading.

GM had warned that earnings would be slower in the first and fourth quarters of the year, but the company says it's still on track to reach annual pretax earnings of around $6.50 per share.

In North America the company made $2.2 billion before taxes for an 8 percent profit margin. The company's joint venture in China made a record $600 million.

GM said all of its business units were profitable for the quarter. In August of last year it sold its European operations to PSA Group of France.

In the U.S., where GM makes most of its money, the average sales price per vehicle rose 0.5 percent for the quarter to $39,512, according to Kelley Blue Book. But the company spent nearly 10 percent more on discounts than it did a year ago.

Shipments to dealers were down by 47,000 for the quarter, largely because factories that make the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups were shut down to retool for new versions of the trucks that come out in the fall. GM books revenue when vehicles are sent to dealers.

Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said union workers in South Korea on Thursday ratified a labor agreement that is part of a major restructuring of the business there. The restructuring includes a factory closure and the reduction of 4,000 jobs to 13,000 workers. Stevens said it will generate $400 million to $500 million per year in cost savings that will make the Korea business profitable next year.  GM also has a preliminary deal with the Korea development bank for $750 million to support capital spending on new products, he said.

"All of these will support a viable, sustainable business in Korea," Stevens said.