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GM Loses $15.5 Billion as Truck Sales Dive

Reuters
Friday, 1 Aug 2008 | 7:57 AM ET

General Motors posted a $15.5 billion quarterly loss Friday, as North American sales dropped by 20 percent and plunging prices for SUVs prompted deep charges for its auto finance business.

CNBC.com

GM shares tumbled 9 percent in reaction to the automaker's announcement of the deeper-than-expected loss, the third-largest quarterly loss in its history.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker also burned through $3.6 billion in cash in the quarter as it ran down inventory of slower-selling vehicles in its slumping home market.

GM's net loss was equal to $27.33 per share, compared with a profit of $891 million, or $1.56 per share a year earlier, reflecting a sharp drop in demand for the light trucks that represent about 60 percent of its sales.

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GM took $9.1 billion in charges against second-quarter results, including $3.3 billion for buyouts of U.S. factory workers, $2.8 billion for its exposure to bankrupt former parts unit Delphi and $1.6 billion to write down lease values.

CEO Rick Wagoner noted the difficult environment automakers face in the current market.

"Obviously, it's a number which includes a lot of charges, some of them, I would say, in the category of restructuring the business, some asset writedowns, so, frankly, a whole lot of different things going on," Wagoner said in a live interview with CNBC. "As we go forward, we're still going to be selling into an industry where we have a different, a weaker mix, and lower sales levels." (See his full comments in the video).

Revenue fell to $38.2 billion from $46.7 billion a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, GM posted a loss of $6.3 billion or $11.21 per share.

Analysts on average had forecast a loss on that basis of $2.67 per share, according to Reuters Estimates, and had looked for revenue of $42.36 billion.

GM ended the second quarter with $21 billion in cash and $5 billion in credit facilities.

It said it had provided notice in July that it would draw down $1 billion under a secured revolving loan facility.

The struggling automaker's cash position has become an increasing concern for investors and analysts, who have begun to question whether and when GM's liquidity could fall below the levels needed to run its cash-hungry global operations.

But CEO Wagoner said the company is still holding enough cash to operate.

"The results that we announced today were fully contemplated in the liquidity plan we put together, and so, between the credit facilities and the actions we took -- $15 billion in liquidity in total -- that covers our needs through `09, even considering continued weak U.S. markets for the remainder of this year and next year," Wagoner said.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's on Thursday downgraded GM to "B-minus" and warned the automaker was on track to burn through roughly $4 billion per quarter this year, sending GM bonds to a record low price.

The company is looking at selling the division that makes its gas-guzzling Hummers, but Wagoner said there is no timetable on when a deal will take place.

At the same time, he said the company will continue to innovate.

"Through all this, even in the second quarter, we continued to have fairly high capital expenditures, because we're continuing to invest in new products, and I think we've got a very good track record, over the last eight to ten product launches, of really coming in with strong products...and...18 of our next 19 new products will be cars or crossovers," he said.

After losses totaling $51 billion over the previous three years, and a $3.25 billion loss in the first quarter, GM faced a battery of problems in the second quarter, including a slide in U.S. sales that sent its shares to a 54-year low.

-- CNBC.com contributed to this report.

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