GM first quarter profit beats Street on strong U.S. demand

DETROIT,| Thu May 3, 2012 – General Motors Co reported a first-quarter profit that surpassed forecasts as it was able to boost vehicle prices, especially in North America, and cut losses in its troubled European operations.

GM, whose shares rose 3.1 percent in premarket trading, also said the U.S. economy was improving and it expected its core North American results in the second and third quarters to largely match the first quarter due to scheduled downtime at its large truck plants.

“We’re clearly seeing some improvement in the (U.S.) economy,” Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann told reporters. “It’s a modest underlying improvement, but it’s patchy and it won’t necessarily all go in a straight line.”

The quarter included the impact of $800 million in higher vehicle pricing and lower consumer incentives, half of which came in North America. Last year, GM offered heavy consumer incentives to drive sales in the U.S. market, something it did not do this year.

Excluding one-time items related to the impairment of goodwill primarily in Europe, the No. 1 U.S. automaker reported a profit of 93 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, expected GM to earn 85 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income fell to $1 billion, or 60 cents a share, from $3.15 billion, or $1.77 a share, in the same quarter a year earlier. Last year’s quarter included a one-time gain of $1.5 billion related to the sale of stakes in Delphi and Ally.

Revenue for the quarter was $37.8 billion, up 4.4 percent from $36.2 billion a year ago.