General Motors loses USD 323 million in 1st quarter of 2006

General Motors Corp. reported a first-quarter loss of $323 million (261.62 million euros) Thursday, the sixth straight quarterly loss for the world's largest automaker.

The loss of 57 cents per share for the January-March period was narrower than a loss of $1.3 billion, or $2.22 per share, in the first quarter of 2005.

GM said revenues were up 14 percent to a record $52.2 billion (42.3 billion euros) from $45.8 billion a year ago, thanks in part to strong sales in Asia and Latin America and improvements in North America, including better pricing.

"The first quarter represented an important milestone in GM and GM North America's turnaround," GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said in a statement.

The automaker, which lost $10.6 billion (8.6 billion euros) in 2005, is in the midst of a major restructuring that calls for cutting 30,000 jobs by 2008.

Included in the first-quarter results was a one-time pretax charge of $1 billion (820 million euros) in for expenses related to a recent settlement that requires hourly retirees to pay more for their health care. GM must contribute $3 billion to a fund for retiree health care by 2011.

GM's struggling North American division reported a loss of $946 million (766.24 million euros), compared with a loss of $1.5 billion a year ago. GM Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said cost savings from the health care agreement and from employee buyouts will largely be seen after July 1, but the automaker is optimistic about its results, the AP says.

"It's a quarter of good, solid progress," he said. "Obviously, the job's not done."

GM's financial arm, General Motors Acceptance Corp., earned $605 million (490.04 million euros) for the quarter, down from $728 million a year ago because of lower mortgage earnings. GM recently completed an agreement to sell 51 percent of GMAC to an investor group for $14 billion (11.34 billion euros).

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