General Motors Co. (GM) - Get Report shares edged higher Friday even as United Auto Workers Union officials said talks with the carmaker aimed at ending a four-day nationwide strike would likely extend into the weekend.
Around 48,000 UAW members walked off the job Monday after talks over a new four-year contract broke down late Sunday,with the sides remain far apart on key issues such as profit sharing, healthcare benefits and plant closures under CEO Mary Barra.
The strike action, the first since 2007, has rippled through GM's supply chain, triggering temporary layoffs at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, and caused political consternation when company executives shifted the healthcare insurance costs of the striking workers to the UAW itself.
"Some progress has been made, but there are still many of our Memberships' issues that remain unresolved," UAW vice president Terry Dittes said in a letter addressed to members late Thursday. "This strike is for all the right reasons: to raise the standard of living of our Members and their families and for workers across this country, to achieve true job security, our fair share of the profits, affordable health care and a path to permanent seniority for temporary members."
GM shares were marked 0.4% higher at the start of trading Friday to change hands at $37.89 each, a move that would trim the stock's decline since the strike action began last week to around 2.5%.
Ted Krumm, who heads the UAW's negotiating team, has focused on the issue of plant closures during the week-long talks, an issue that has also raised the ire of President Donald Trump in the past. He also invoked memories of the $50 billion bailout GM received from the federal government at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009.
GM, in response, said it was "disappointing that the UAW leadership has chosen to strike. It says it offer of 5,400 new and retained jobs, as well as $7 billion in new investments over the next four years, "improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways".
GM posted stronger-than-expected adjusted earnings for its fiscal second quarter, with a bottom line of $1.64 per share that was down 9.4% from the same period last year but firmly ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.44 per share. Group revenues, GM said, came in at $36.1 billion, down modestly from last year and largely in-line with analysts' forecasts.
Looking into 2019, GM said it sees full-year earnings in the range of $5.91 to $6.75 per share, with capital expenses in the region of $8 billion to $9 billion. Adjusted earnings, GM said, were held in the range of $6.50 to $7.00 per share.
GM said its North American earnings rose 11.1% to $3 billion, offsetting a slump in international profits linked to a $400 decline in China income. GM delivered 747,000 vehicles in the U.S., the company said, led by record sales for crossover vehicles, which rose 17% from the same period last year.
GM's main U.S. rival, Ford Motor Co. F, has also been slashing jobs and shuttering plants as part of global overhaul it hopes will save it billions over the next few years.
"Ford is a family company and saying goodbye to colleagues is difficult and emotional," CEO Jim Hackett said in a company-wide email earlier this spring. "We have moved away from past practices in some regions where team members who were separated had to leave immediately with their belongings, instead giving people the choice to stay for a few days to wrap up and say goodbye."
Ford is planning to close plants in France and Wales, having already reduced production at facilities in Spain and German and shuttered a plant in Russia, in order to reach the 12,000 jobs cut target, nearly a quarter of its workforce, although the company said many will come from voluntary separation agreements.
Last week, however, Moody's Investors Service lowered its headline rating on Ford to Ba1, one notch below investment grade status, marking the first time Ford's debt has been considered "junk" since it reclaimed a triple-B rating in 2012.
Moody's said Ford's ongoing global restructuring plans will cost around $7 billion in cash -- and $11 billion in overall charges -- that will lead to negative free-cash flow over the next two years amid weakening global auto markets. Ford still holds investment grade ratings from Standard & Poor's and Fitch.