GM roars past earnings expectations

@CNNMoney August 4, 2011: 12:01 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- General Motors continued its turnaround as it posted big jumps in both quarterly sales and profit that were much better than expected.

The nation's No. 1 automaker, barely two years past its federal bailout and bankruptcy, reported Thursday that it earned $2.5 billion in the second quarter, nearly double the $1.3 billion it earned a year earlier when it was still a privately held company.

It earned $1.54 a share in the quarter, far better than the $1.20 a share forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue soared 19% to $39.4 billion, as both the average pricing and the volume of vehicles sold improved. The company sold 2.3 million vehicles worldwide, an increase of 7%. Analysts had been looking for revenue of $36.7 billion. About $1 billion of the increased revenue came from improved pricing.

Shares of GM (GM, Fortune 500) were 2.5% lower in late morning trading, but that was apparently due to losses in the broader markets on worries about economic weakness. Shares of rivals such as Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500), Toyota Motor (TM), Honda Motor (HMC) and Nissan all lost ground than were all down even more than GM.

"GM's investments in fuel economy, design and quality are paying off around the world as our global market share growth and financial results bear out," said Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO in the company's earnings statement. "Our progress has been steady and we're preparing to launch more new products this year to keep the momentum going."

U.S. sales volume outpaced growth elsewhere, rising 11% to 669,000, as it improved market share by about a half of percentage point to 20%. By comparison, after years of rapid sales growth in China, vehicle sales there were essentially unchanged in the quarter at 588,000.

The United States also produced the lion share of profits for the company, as operating earnings in North America reached $2.2 billion with plants running at 103% of capacity for the quarter. One of the biggest problems for GM that drove it into bankruptcy was severe overcapacity in its North American operations.

The capacity is calculated assuming plants run two shifts, but since it emerged from bankruptcy GM has been running some plants with three shifts going around the clock, allowing them to reach more than 120% of capacity. Akerson told investors during a conference call he believes the company can continue to maintain this level of productivity.

U.S. automakers post stronger sales as Japanese slide

But the company also improved results elsewhere. In Europe, it went from a year-earlier loss of $160 million to a profit of $102 million, and earnings also improved in its international operations unit, which includes overseas operations other than in Europe and South America. Profits only narrowed in South America.

GM rivals Ford and Chrysler Group both posted improved revenue in the second quarter, with Ford results beating forecasts. But Chrysler, which is not yet publicly traded after its bailout, posted a net loss due to a charge it took related to repaying its bailout loans ahead of schedule.

Earlier this week, GM's main global rival Toyota only slightly better than break-even results for the quarter due to the effects of the March earthquake in Japan, but raised its forecast for the remainder of the year. To top of page

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