General Motors reported lower than expected first-quarter adjusted earnings of 86 cents per share on revenue of $35.7 billion.
The Detroit-based automaker was expected by analysts to report earnings of 97 cents per share and revenue of $37.6 billion.
The results were impacted by $050 million in special charges taken by the automaker related to shutting down its business in Russia and the company’s victims compensation program. They amounted to 30 cents per share.
As a result, the company’s net income in the first quarter was $945 million, or 56 cents a share. However, the company’s fared much better in 2015 than it did for the same period last year when it reported adjusted earnings of $125 million, or 6 cents a share. Last year’s results included charges related to recalls including a defective ignition switch.
“Our results in the first quarter provide a solid foundation to achieve our financial commitments for the year,” said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement. “Continued execution of our plan, including our capital allocation framework, will drive profitable growth, return on invested capital and shareholder value.”
The company generated much of its earnings in the U.S. during the first quarter. It reported adjusted earnings of $2.2 billion in large measure of the strength of its full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles.
It sold nearly 200,000 trucks and 55,000 large SUVs during the quarter as consumers continued to revel in low gas prices. GM makes big profits – in some instances more than $10,000 – on the sale of each truck and SUV.
(Global sales wars heating up: GM sells 2.4 million vehicles in Q1. For more, Click Here.)
The increased profit on trucks is “clearly a favorable tailwind,” Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said, boosting GM’s bottom line by $500 million during the quarter, Associated Press reported.
Globally, GM’s vehicle sales were up to 2.42 million, which trails Volkswagen AG. VW is expected to be the world’s largest automaker in 2015, passing Toyota, which held the title last year. VW and GM will ride rising sales in China to improved numbers this year.
Success in China is the key to growing GM’s overall sales figures and the company fared well in China – it’s biggest market – by selling 82,319 more vehicles in the first quarter of 2015 than in 2014 for a 9.4% increase.
However, sales in the U.S. were nearly as strong with an increase of more than 45,000 units during the quarter resulting in an increase of 6.1%.
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Not surprisingly, the company continued to lose money in Europe, but the losses are getting smaller. GM Europe reported EBIT-adjusted of $200 million. This compares with EBIT-adjusted of $300 million in the first quarter of 2014, which included $200 million for restructuring costs. The maker has lost money on its European operations for nearly two decades, but Barra set a deadline of this year to turn that around.
The profits added to the automaker’s healthy bottom line. GM ended the quarter with strong total automotive liquidity of $34.2 billion. Automotive cash and marketable securities was $22.1 billion compared with $25.2 billion at year-end 2014.
The drop in cash can be attributable to, in part, the $5 billion stock repurchase program the maker announced earlier this year. The company agreed to buy back shares after being pressured by a group of activist investors, who actually wanted the company to spend nearly twice that amount.
(To see more about GM investing $16 billion in new products for China, Click Here.)
Since announcing the program, GM has repurchased 19.4 million shares through April 21. Of this total, 10 million shares were repurchased through the March 31 trading date for approximately $400 million.