General Motors'

(GM) - Get Report

Italian adventure worsened Tuesday when the automaker was forced to take a $2.2 billion writedown of its



stake and report a quarterly loss.

Before the charge, however, the company topped analysts' earnings forecast, in part because mortgage refinancing continues to goose the results of its finance segment.

GM reported a bottom-line loss of $804 million in the quarter, including the charge for Fiat, on which it spent $2.4 billion in 2000 for a 20% stake. Before the charges, which totaled about $1.4 billion after taxes, the company earned $615 million, or $1.20 a share, up from a profit of $385 million, or 85 cents a share, last year. Analysts were predicting earnings of 99 cents a share on that basis. Total revenue rose to $43.6 billion from $42.5 billion a year ago.

GM's closely watched finance arm earned $476 million, up 9% from a year ago on strong mortgage lending.

"Our operations in North America are running very well, and we're striving for the same level of performance in other regions. We continue to face challenges, but our strong operating performance is the key to addressing them," the company said.

The company said full-year earnings will be higher than expected because of the strong third-quarter operating results but put its fourth-quarter estimate at $1.40 a share, at the low end of existing forecasts and below the consensus estimate of $1.48 a share.

Fiat has increasingly been GM's albatross, last week announcing it would cut 8,100 workers amid a brutal sales slump.