GM raises full-year forecast after strong second-quarter result

Reuters with CNBC.com
GM had strong performance around the world: CFO

General Motors raised its forecast for full-year earnings after reporting a record second-quarter profit that handily beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares in the world's third-largest automaker rose 3.8 percent in premarket trading.

GM said it expects adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of $5.50 to $6 per share for full-year 2016, up from a previous forecast of $5.25 to $5.75 per share.

"We still expect to see strong industry performance in the U.S. for the foreseeable future," Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"Clearly the results in June were a little bit less than what we expected, but the fundamentals are there for continued strong performance, and that's our baseline assumption for the rest of the year."

Earlier this month, GM said its June sales fell 1.6 percent to 255,210 vehicles due to lower sales of Buick and GMC vehicles.

Second-quarter net income rose to $2.87 billion, or $1.81 a share, from $1.1 billion, or 67 cents a share, a year ago. Adjusted earnings were $1.86 per share while Wall Street expected $1.52 per share.

Matthew Busch | Bloomberg | Getty Images

More than 90 percent of its pretax profits came from North America, where profit margins rose to 12.1 percent from 10.5 percent a year earlier. The improvement was driven by demand for pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles.

GM also reported its first quarterly profit in Europe in five years, but warned that currency and market disruptions caused by Britain's decision to quit the European Union could slash $400 million from second-half results in Europe.

The U.S. and European results "were the two biggest drivers — at least my assessment — of the beat versus consensus, but broadly speaking, we had strong performance around the world," Stevens said.

GM also disclosed that it paid $580 million in cash and stock to acquire Cruise Automation, the self-driving car start-up, earlier this year. Stevens told reporters on Thursday the ultimate cost of the deal could rise based on the performance of the operation and payments to employees.

GM's strong performance in North America helped generate $3.2 billion in free cash flow for the second quarter. GM expects $6 billion in free cash flow for the year, Stevens said

The automaker has said it will buy back up to $9 billion in shares through 2017, and could review the plan if cash flow exceeds expectations.

GM's operations in the Middle East and Asia outside of China continued to be a drag on results. The company reported a $300 million loss in its consolidated international operations, wider than the year-ago $100 million loss.

General Motors also said Thursday it is recalling nearly 290,000 older Chevrolet Impalas in the United States because the air bag may not deploy in the event of the crash.

The automaker said the front passenger seat frame in the 2009 and 2010 model Impalas may rub against and damage electrical wires, which could cause the airbag fuse to short. Dealers will add anti-abrasion tape to prevent damage.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.