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GM Europe halves Q4 losses; GMAC supports global 2003 results

The world's biggest vehicle manufacturer was first off the block yesterday in announcing fourth quarter and full-year 2003 results.

General Motors' $1 billion fourth-quarter 2003 net income 2003 equalled the $1 billion it earned in the same period a year ago, but more than half the operating profit improvement resulted from the weaker dollar and GM would have recorded a $66 million net loss without a $1.3-billion gain on the sale of its stake in the DirecTV satellite television service to News Corp.

Total fourth-quarter revenue rose to $49.1 billion from $45.6 billion a year earlier, but GM's worldwide automotive profits were 31% lower than a year earlier at $838m.

For the full year GM's total sales rose to $185.5 billion, up 4.6 percent from 2002. Thanks in large part to a record $2.8 billion profit from GMAC, GM reported net income of $3.8 billion for the full year, more than double 2002's $1.7 billion.

The sale of Hughes Electronics to News Corp. generated $4.2 billion of cash which GM used to rebuild its pension funds. From continuing operations alone, GM earned $3.2 billion, down from $3.9 billion in 2002.

Operating profits for GM's North American business fell from $3.2 billion in 2002 to $1.2 billion in 2003. GM's fourth-quarter losses in Latin America and the Middle East nearly doubled to $331 million, but losses in Europe were nearly halved from Q4 2002, to $286 million. Earlier in 2003, GM Europe had hoped to break even, an expectation now deferred to full-year 2004. GM made a profit of $177 million in Asia Pacific.

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