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UPDATE 3-Lyft elevates GM first-quarter profit, pickups in driver's seat

Nick Carey and Ben Klayman

(New throughout, adds comment from analyst, updates stock price)

DETROIT, April 30 (Reuters) - General Motors Co on Tuesday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, lifted by revaluations of shares it holds in ride-hailing company Lyft Inc and France's Peugeot SA.

Excluding the benefits of those revaluations, GM delivered results in line with analyst predictions, driven mostly by highly lucrative pickup truck sales in the U.S. market.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker's shares fell 2.4 percent in early trading.

The earnings came after a 7 percent decline in U.S. new-vehicle sales in the first quarter, in which smaller rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's pickup trucks outsold GM's.

"We remain concerned with the U.S. auto cycle, both from a pricing and volume perspective," Buckingham Research analyst Joseph Amaturo wrote in a client note. "Moreover, specific to GM, we are concerned about recently monthly pick-up truck and market share stats."

GM's sales in China also dropped almost 20 percent and profit there declined 37 percent. Auto sales in China industrywide fell 2.8 percent last year and were down again in the first quarter.

GM Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters that the Chinese market remains "volatile."

"From an economic standpoint, there are green shoots," she said. "But we have yet to see that translate to vehicle demand."

GM will launch 20 new models in China in 2019, most of them in the second half of the year.

In the United States, the automaker had around four months supply of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck on the ground as of the beginning of April, a high level in an auto market that overall is expected to decline in 2019.

CFO Suryadevara said that the company's inventory would be brought down over the course of the year without use of heavy consumer discounts.

She said that tariffs and higher commodity prices would cost GM around $1 billion in 2019.

GM said it is "bullish" on pickup truck sales for the rest of 2019 as more versions of its new Silverado hit dealer showrooms and its heavy-duty trucks launch in the second half of the year.

Last week, rival Ford Motor Co reported a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit on strong pickup truck sales in its core U.S. market and said it was confident its 2019 results would be better than those of last year.

Last November, GM said it would close five North American plants because of a declining market for traditional gasoline-powered sedans. The move, coming as GM ramps up investment in electric and autonomous vehicles, brought widespread criticism, including from U.S. President Donald Trump.

GM reiterated on Tuesday that it is "committed to making job opportunities available for all 2,800 U.S. hourly employees impacted."

GM has preferred shares in Peugeot from when it sold its German Opel unit to the French automaker in 2017. Lyft completed an initial public offering at the end of the first quarter and the value of GM's stake rose $300 million. The increased value of those stakes added 31 cents per share to GM's first-quarter profit.

GM reported a first-quarter net profit of $2.2 billion, or $1.48 per share, up from $1.05 billion, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-items, the company earned $1.41 per share. Analysts on average expected $1.11.

The company's revenue for the quarter fell to $34.9 billion from $36.1 billion a year earlier.

(Reporting By Nick Carey and Ben Klayman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)