Semiconductor shortage to hit GM earnings


General Motors said on Wednesday that the global shortage of semiconductors would have a short-term impact on the company’s earnings and cash this year, even as it reported profits for 2020.

A day earlier the Detroit automaker said production at three plants it idled this week would remain suspended until mid-March. The auto industry has been rocked by a shortage of semiconductors, which are used throughout vehicles, from power steering to brakes.

Chief executive Mary Barra said it was too early to know how the chip shortage would affect production in the first half of the year. However, the company estimates it will shave up to $2bn from adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, and up to $2.5bn in free cash flow.

Still, Barra said that “the semiconductor shortage won’t slow our growth plans, and with our mitigation strategies we still expect to see a very good year”.

“We are definitely working deep into the supply base to make sure they understand our volume requirements,” she added. “We’ve changed a lot of processes in the way that we’re going to work.”

The company’s 2021 outlook — which incorporates the effect of the industry-wide setback — is between $10bn and $11bn in adjusted ebit and $1bn to $2bn in adjusted free cash flow. The company forecasts net income between $6.8bn and $7.6bn for the year.

GM said it planned to make up as much lost production as possible, including by building incomplete vehicles and finishing them when chips become available.

GM reported fourth-quarter net income of $2.8bn — a 3 per cent increase, as revenue rose nearly 7 per cent to $38bn. Adjusted earnings per share for the quarter came in at $1.93, ahead of analyst expectations of $1.60.

For 2020 as a whole, the company reported net income of $6.4bn — about the same as 2019 — on revenue of $123bn, a 15 per cent decrease.

Barra said the company’s “strong” financial performance “was remarkable by any measure”, particularly so in a year where the Covid-19 pandemic caused GM and other auto manufacturers to idle production for about two months.

The company’s stock closed on Monday at $56.88, the highest level since the automaker emerged from bankruptcy 11 years ago. The price has risen as investor enthusiasm has grown for GM’s increased investment in electric vehicles and plan to end manufacturing vehicles with traditional engines by 2035.


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