General Motors reports record profits for 2011


US carmaker General Motors (GM) reported record profits for 2011 on Thursday, although huge losses in its European operations dragged its fourth-quarter earnings down.

In its first full year since emerging from bankruptcy, the firm made a profit of $7.6 billion, 62 percent up on 2010’s takings thanks to bigger sales at higher prices in North America as well as steady growth in China, The Guardian reported.

The profit beat the company’s previous record of $6.7 billion in 1997. 47,500 GM employees around the world are to receive profit-sharing checks of up to $7,000, an all-time high.

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In a statement, GM chief executive Daniel F. Akerson said: “In our first full year as a public company, we grew the top and bottom lines, advanced our global market share and made strategic investments in our brands around the world.”

“We will build on these results as we bring more new cars, crossovers and trucks to market, and make GM a far more efficient global team,” he added.

Europe remained a black spot on GM's annual accounts, with losses of $700 million leading to speculation that major European plants such as Ellesmere Port in the UK and Bochum in Germany may close.

GM also lost $100 million for the year in South America.

The firm’s chief financial officer, Dan Ammann, said: “Behind the scenes, we are working hard to eliminate complexity and cost through the organization to increase margins in all of our regions and return Europe and South America to profitability,” the BBC reported.

However Ammann did not disclose whether this would mean job cuts.

Excluding one-off items like debt reduction and investments in its former financing arm, Ally Financial, GM earned 39 cents a share in the final three months of 2011, 2 cents below analysts’ expectations, according to The New York Times.

Nevertheless, shares were up 4.2 percent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, to $29.98.

The Obama administration bailed GM out to the tune of $50 billion after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008. The US Government now owns 32 percent of the firm.

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