Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 16, 2014

GM: Modest gain this year

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Co. said Wednesday it expects a modest gain in pretax profits this year as global sales growth slows.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker joined others in forecasting slower growth in the red-hot U.S. market. Still, GM and industry analysts expect sales to reach or exceed 16 million for the first time since 2007.

GM said it plans to use profits from the U.S. and China — now its largest market — to boost weaker parts of its business. For instance, it will spend an estimated $1.1 billion to restructure its European operations.

“We’re taking advantage of the strength in the U.S. and China to engage in other areas such as our international operations,” GM’s president, Dan Ammann, said on a conference call with reporters. Ammann said GM’s restructuring costs should drop off significantly in 2015.

But the restructuring this year will mean flat profit margins, a development that concerned some analysts. In a research note, Barclay’s analyst Brian Johnson said flat margins imply 2014 earnings of $3.60 to $3.80 per share, below his estimate of $4.06. But Johnson said it’s possible GM’s new management team is being overly conservative to set the bar low.

Shares of GM fell 52 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $39.50 in afternoon trading. That took some of the shine off Tuesday’s announcement that GM would pay a dividend this year for the first time since 2008. But GM’s outlook wasn’t as concerning to investors as Ford Motor Co.’s, which warned last month of lower pretax profit and pressure on pricing.

GM announced the outlook on its first day under new management. Mary Barra became GM’s new CEO Wednesday, replacing Dan Akerson. Ammann, the former chief financial officer, became president, while Chuck Stevens, the former CFO of North America, is GM’s new CFO.

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