GM reports 2Q loss of $758 million, but says things are looking up

Coronavirus hit was less than expected, and pickups 'flying off the dealer lots'

General Motors Co on Wednesday said if the U.S. economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and the auto industry does not experience any further production shutdowns, the No. 1 U.S. automaker should be able to generate enough cash to pay off a $16 billion loan by the end of the year.

"Obviously, it is still a very fluid situation as you know and we're watching the virus, the economy and its impact on the overall industry very closely," Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters.

Suryadevara spoke after GM posted a smaller-than-expected second-quarter loss thanks to solid high-margin pickup truck sales and aggressive cost-cutting that helped mitigate the impact of a forced shutdown that left its North American plants shut for eight of the 13 weeks in the quarter.

The better-than-expected results sent GM's shares up 0.8% in morning trading.

"We consider this a quite impressive accomplishment, and (it) speaks to the structural improvements in the business today versus prior years," Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy wrote in a client note.

GM did not provide an earnings forecast for the year but said it ended the second quarter with $30.6 billion in cash.

Suryadevara told reporters that if the U.S. economy continues to recover, GM should generate cash flow of between $7 billion and $9 billion during the second half of the year.

She said the automaker should repay its $16 billion revolving credit line by the end of 2020, an action that again depends on a continued economic recovery and annual industry-wide U.S. new vehicle sales of 14 million units this year.

But spiking COVID-19 cases across southern and southwestern U.S. states have left that recovery in doubt.

Weekly jobless claims numbers from the Labor Department released last week showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose, unexpectedly, for the first time in nearly four months, suggesting the labor market was stalling amid the resurgence in new COVID-19 cases and depressed demand.

During the quarter GM said its retail sales showed signs of recovery, improving from a drop of 35% in April versus the same month in 2019 to a decline of 20% in May and June.

GM said it was "working all avenues" to boost U.S. dealer inventories, and all of its U.S. full-size pickup truck and full-size SUV plants are back at three shifts.

Nearly all of its other plants are now working at pre-pandemic shift levels.

GM also said it would increase production of light-duty full-size pickups at its Fort Wayne assembly plant by about 1,000 units a month beginning Sept 1.

GM CFO Suryadevara told reporters that GM's new full-sized SUVs "have been received really well and they're flying off the dealer lots."

She said that during the second quarter the automaker had sold off its remaining shares in ride-hailing company Lyft Inc .

GM reported a net loss for the quarter of $758 million, or 56 cents per share, down from a profit of $2.4 billion, or $1.66 per share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, the loss was $806 million.

Excluding one-time items, GM reported a loss of 50 cents per share while analysts had expected a loss of $1.77 per share.



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