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GM tops forecasts
No. 1 automaker sees earnings drop but still beats Wall Street estimates.
January 19, 2005: 8:22 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - General Motors Corp. posted reduced fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday that still drove past Wall Street expectations.

The world's largest automaker earned $569 million, or $1.01 a share in the fourth quarter, excluding special items, compared with $838 million, or $1.47 a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by earning tracker First Call had a consensus forecast of 91 cents a share.

Including special items GM (Research) posted net income of $630 million, or $1.11 a share, down from $1.0 billion, or $2.13 in net income a year earlier, when it saw a gain on the sale of its former Hughes Electronics unit.

After losing money from its core automotive operations in the third quarter, the company rebounded to earn $235 million from auto operations, excluding special items. But that was down from the $396 million it earned on that basis a year earlier.

GM North America posted 5 percent improvement earnings in the period to $416 million, but losses soared in GM Europe and profits fell in GM Asia as rapid growth in Chinese sales slowed at the end of the year.

Once again it was GM's credit unit, GMAC, that was the key profit producer, earning $611 million, although that was down 3 percent from year-earlier earnings, as higher interest rates cut its mortgage refinancing business.

The drop in earnings came as GM (Research) reported that adjusted revenue rose nearly 5 percent to $51.2 billion. Worldwide auto sales slipped to 2.12 million in the quarter from 2.15 a year earlier, although that allowed the company to see full-year sales climb to 2 percent to 8.24 million.

The company lost market share in North America, but gained share in its other three regions.

The company repeated its 2005 earnings per share outlook of $4 to $5. That outlook, released last Thursday, send the stock sharply lower, as it was seen as more pessimistic than the consensus forecast of $4.78 a share at that time.

Analysts have since cut their consensus forecast to $4.39 for the current year, which would be down from the $6.40 a share it earned excluding special items in 2004.  Top of page


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