GM Posts $809M Loss

General Motors suffered a wider-than-expected $809 million loss in the third quarter, the result of an eight-week summer strike that shut down nearly its entire operation.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker said the loss equaled $1.28 a share, compared to a gain of $1.07 billion, or $1.35 a share, in the year-earlier period. The strike cost the company $1.2 billion, or $1.89 a share, in the latest quarter.

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GENERAL MOTORS (GM)
Analysts were expecting GM (GM) to lose 98 cents a share. Sales fell to $34.4 billion from $41.9 billion a year ago.

Ford Motor Co. (F), the No.2 U.S. auto seller, will report third-quarter profits Wednesday. It's expected to earn 79 cents a share.

GM's poorer results follows on the heels of a robust earnings report from Chrysler Corp. (C). Third-quarter profits for Chrysler, which acknowledged benefiting from the strike at its competitor, tallied $682 million, or $1.02 a share. That beat Wall Street estimates by 15 percent and cause its stock to leap 2 1/2 to 44 1/4 Monday.

Chrysler, whose merger with Germany's Daimler-Benz (DAI) is expected to close next month, was projected to earn 87 cents a share, according to First Call. The No. 3 U.S. automaker earned $441 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

The latest results were boosted by strong sales of new models, such as the Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle and the LH series of mid-sized sedans. A $2 billion stock-buyback program also helped results by reducing the number of outstanding shares by 7 percent in the past year.

Chrysler sales totaled $15.0 billion, compared with third-quarter 1997 revenue of $13.2 billion. The company's profit margin rose to 4.6 percent from 3.3 percent a year earlier.

Chrysler's North American sales of cars and trucks registered 651,192 units, compared with 607,789 a year earlier. Its market share climbed to 15.5 percent from 14.1 percent.

"While incentives remain high, and overall market conditions around the world are tough, we continue to maintain a strong showing," said Chrysler Chairman Robert J. Eaton.

The only drawback was a dcline in international sales, which fell 21 percent to 48,076 vehicles. Third-quarter sales in Asia were particularly hard hit, dropping 49 percent to 7,610 vehicles from a year earlier.

Written By Jeffry Bartash