Earnings: GM | ConocoPhillips | Boeing | Lucent | Anheuser-Busch |

General Motors Posts Net Loss, But Operating Profit Beats Views

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. (GM) Wednesday posted a larger-than-expected quarterly operating profit as it slashed costs in North America and raised its cost-cutting target by $1 billion, sending its shares up 5 percent.

GM, the world's No. 1 automaker by sales volume, reported its net loss widened for the second quarter after writing down previously announced costs associated with buyouts for almost a third of its factory work force.

GM said its global automotive operations, excluding charges, posted their first profit excluding charges since 2004 after cost reductions in the core U.S. market.

The company raised its target for cutting recurring costs in North America by $1 billion to $6 billion by the end of 2006.

Total revenues for the second quarter rose to $54.4 billion from $48.5 billion. Revenue from auto sales rose 11 percent to $45.2 billion from $40.4 billion.

In response, GM shares surged 5 percent in premarket trading to $32.17 on the Inet brokerage system.

GM posted a second-quarter net loss of $3.2 billion, or $5.62 per share, compared with a loss of $987 million, or $1.75 per share, for the year-ago quarter.

Excluding charges, GM posted a profit of $2.03 per share. Analysts, on average, had forecast an operating profit on that basis of 51 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

GM had not forecast its results, and analyst estimates ranged widely between 29 cents and 80 cents per share for the automaker's second-quarter earnings after excluding charges.

The company said it slashed the adjusted loss at its North American operations to $85 million in the quarter, excluding special items, marking an improvement of $1.1 billion from the year-earlier period, as it slashed costs, including cutting its ongoing pension expense.

Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has been under pressure to show improvement as the company studies a possible three-way proposal with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Renault SA

in which the two could buy up to a 20-percent stake in GM.

That deal, urged by GM's largest individual shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian, has been widely viewed as a means of prodding Wagoner to speed the automaker's turnaround efforts after a $10.6 billion loss in 2005.

In recent months, GM has cut 35,000 factory jobs through buyouts and early retirement offers and clinched an agreement with its major union, the United Auto Workers, that reduces the company's share of health care costs.

GM shares, which have gained almost 60 percent since the start of the year, closed at $30.66 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange on growing expectations that the automaker would report progress in its turnaround.

That marked the first time the stock has closed over $30 in nine months and took Kerkorian's $1.7-billion investment in GM back to profitability.

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Conocophillips Posts $5.19B Profit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips (COP) , the No. 3 U.S. oil company,Wednesday reported a 65 percent surge in quarterly profit, boosted by sharply higher crude oil prices and the recent acquisition of Burlington Resources.

But the company warned production in the third quarter would be hurt by seasonal maintenance scheduled in Alaska, the United Kingdom and Venezuela and take a $400 million charge over higher U.K. tax rates.

Net income in the second quarter rose to $5.19 billion, or $3.09 a share, from $3.14 billion, or $2.21 a share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts on average expected the company to report a profit of $2.79 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue jumped to $47.1 billion, up from $41.8 billion in the year earlier quarter.

Oil and gas companies are enjoying another blockbuster quarter as crude oil prices stay at stubbornly high levels, driven by anxiety over violence spreading in the Middle East.

The company produced 2.54 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter, including an estimated 400,000 barrels per day from its stake in Russian oil giant LUKOIL.

ConocoPhillips' stake in LUKOIL stood at 18 percent at the end of the second quarter.

The higher crude oil prices and inclusion of Burlington into its results helped push earnings at its exploration and production to $3.3 billion in the quarter from $1.92 billion a year earlier.

Refining and marketing operations earnings rose to $1.71 billion, up from $1.11 billion a year earlier, as higher domestic refining margins helped offset lower worldwide marketing margins.

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Boeing Reports Loss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Boeing Co. (BA) Wednesday reported a quarterly loss as it took $1.1 billion of charges to settle government investigations into its defense unit and to cover the costs of delayed surveillance aircraft.

The Chicago-based company, which dominates the commercial aircraft market with Europe's Airbus, reported a loss of $160 million, or 21 cents per share. That compares with a profit of $566 million, or 70 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $15 billion.

Wall Street expected a loss of 21 cents per share on revenue of $14.96 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

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Lucent Says Quarterly Profit Falls

NEW YORK, (Reuters) - Lucent Technologies Inc. (LU) said Wednesday that quarterly profit fell, in line with its warning earlier this month of lower sales of wireless network equipment in North America.

Net income dropped to $79 million, or 2 cents per diluted share, in the fiscal third quarter ended June 30, from $372 million, or 7 cents a share in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue fell to $2.05 billion from $2.34 billion in the year-ago quarter, but was in line with its warning on July 10.

French communications equipment maker Alcatel is due to buy the New Jersey-based Lucent for about $14 billion, creating one of the biggest telecommunications equipment makers in the world.

The deal has already won clearance from U.S. competition authorities as well as European Union. Lucent shareholders will vote on the deal on Sept. 7.

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Anheuser-busch Beats Views

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. (BUD) , the largest U.S. brewer, Wednesday posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings helped by strong summer sales in the United States as well as growth overseas.

The company, whose brands include Budweiser and Michelob, said it earned $638 million, or 82 cents a share, compared with $594 million, or 76 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding a tax gain, the company posted earnings of 81 cents a share. On that basis, analysts on average forecast earnings of 76 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Anheuser-Busch, which has about a 50 percent share of the U.S. beer market, said net sales rose to $4.25 billion from $4 billion a year earlier.

Wall Street analysts were expecting the company to report revenue of $4.16 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Anheuser-Busch has introduced several new products and has accelerated efforts to broaden its portfolio of imported and craft beers. While sales of domestic beer in the United States have been sluggish, imports and crafts have seen strong growth.

The stock has risen 11 percent this year, while the S&P 500 index, which includes Anheuser-Busch's stock, is up 1.6 percent for the same period.

The beermaker's shares trades at 19 times expected 2006 earnings, a premium over smaller rival Molson Coors Brewing Co., which carries a price-to-earnings ratio of 17.

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