GM Posts $1.10B Loss — Worst Since 1992

General Motors Corp. (GM) Tuesday posted a quarterly net loss of $1.10 billion, its worst results since the industrial icon skirted bankruptcy in 1992, due to weaker U.S. sales and growing costs for employee health care and goods to build cars.

GM (search), the world's largest automaker, said the first-quarter loss amounted to $1.91 per share and included several one-time items. In the first quarter last year, GM earned a profit of $1.2 billion, or $2.12 per share.

The automaker also said it would not provide any earnings guidance for the 2005 calendar year. Last month, GM cut its earnings forecast for the year to a range of $1 to $2 per share. Analysts expect GM to earn 61 cents per share this year, according to Reuters Estimates.

The loss was the biggest since GM lost $21 billion in the first quarter of 1992, when the changes in accounting procedures required companies to include health-care costs in earnings.

GM's automotive operations lost $1.98 billion in the quarter, due to a loss in North America of $1.56 billion.

The Detroit automaker shocked the markets last month when it slashed its outlook to a loss of $1.50 per share, down sharply from a previous forecast of break-even or better.

Excluding one-time items, GM posted a first-quarter loss of $1.48 per share. On that basis, analysts had expected GM to lose $1.50 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The earnings warning sent GM shares down to their lowest level in more than a decade and spurred debt ratings agencies to warn that they could downgrade GM's bond ratings to "junk" status at any time.

Ford Motor Co. (F), scheduled to release its quarterly results on Wednesday, chopped its 2005 earnings forecast earlier in April, the second time in less than a month that the third-largest automaker revised its outlook, due to weaker sales and soaring costs.

GM's first quarter results included several one-time items, including a restructuring of GM's European operations, where the automaker offered buyouts of up to 12,000 jobs, and the costs of idling a vehicle assembly plant in Michigan.