General Motors earnings drop 14%

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US auto giant General Motors Thursday reported a 14 percent fall in profit for the first quarter due to slightly weaker earnings from its North America division.

GM (NYSE: GM - news) reported net income of $865 million in the quarter to March 31 on revenues of $36.9 billion. That compared with $1.0 billion on revenues of $37.8 billion a year earlier.

The breakout of GM's income by region showed North America's earnings at $1.4 billion, compared with $1.6 billion last year.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the North America results are expected to improve after the company completes several roll-outs of new vehicles in the region.

"The story for North America is we're transitioning our product portfolio," Cain said. That shift comes against "a backdrop of an economy that continues to improve."

GM's wholesale vehicle sales, the figures that are used to calculate profits, showed declines in most regions compared with last year. GM North America sold 829,000 units wholesale compared with 848,000 in the year-ago period.

An exception was China, where wholesale deliveries from GM's joint ventures grew to 841,000 in the quarter from 756,000.

GM's South America division turned in a loss of $38 million compared to a gain of $153 million a year ago.

Losses in Europe dropped to $175 million from $294 million.

Worldwide market share rose from 11.2 percent in the year-ago period to 11.4 percent in the most recent quarter. US market share grew from 17.2 percent to 17.7 percent.

"The year is off to a solid start as we increased our global share with strong new products that are attracting customers around the world," said GM chief executive Dan Akerson.

GM reported net earnings per share of 58 cents, surpassing analyst expectations of 54 cents. Revenues were also slightly higher than the $36.6 billion seen by analysts.

GM shares were up 4.6 percent in early trade.