GM earnings fall 53 percent on special items

PARK RIDGE, IL - FEBRUARY 26: The General Motors logo hangs at the entrance to a Chevrolet dealership February 26, 2009 in Park Ridge, Illinois. General Motors Corp., the maker of Chevrolet, posted a $9.6 billion fourth-quarter loss and went through $6.2 billion of cash in the last quarter of 2008. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) Scott Olson

DETROIT General Motors (GM) says third-quarter net income fell 53 percent compared with a year ago, as one-time expenses and losses in Europe offset strong performances elsewhere.

The company earned $698 million in the quarter, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $1.48 billion, or 89 cents per share, a year ago.

GM beat Wall Street expectations. Excluding $900 million in one-time items, it made 96 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 94 cents.

GM took an $800 million one-time charge to buy preferred stock from a health care trust for union retirees.

It earned nearly $2.2 billion pretax in North America on strong pickup profits. Its European loss was cut in half to $214 million. Revenue rose 4 percent to $39 million, just short of Wall Street's estimate.

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