- Associated Press - Thursday, February 24, 2011

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors posted a $510 million profit in the fourth quarter and $4.7 billion for the year as it continued an impressive comeback from bankruptcy.

The profits were fueled by strong sales in China and the U.S. as the global auto market began to recover.

GM made 31 cents per share for the quarter, which included $400 million in charges mainly for paying preferred stock dividends and buying preferred stock from the U.S. government. Without the charges, the company earned 52 cents, exceeding Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 49 cents per share.

Revenue for the quarter was $36.9 billion. That also beat analysts’ estimates of $34.3 billion.

For the full year, GM earned $2.89 per share on revenue of $135.6 billion.

It was the Detroit company’s first profitable year since 2004 and GM’s best performance since making $6 billion in 1999 during the height of the pickup truck and sport utility vehicle sales boom.

The full-year profit is impressive considering that from 2004 through 2009, GM was in a state of perpetual restructuring, trying to downsize its work force and shrink its factory capacity to match falling demand for its vehicles. The company lost more than $80 billion during the period and almost ran out of cash in 2008, when the government began a bailout that eventually reached $49.5 billion.

With government financing, GM went into bankruptcy protection in June 2009, leaving a quick 40 days later cleansed of burdensome debt and labor costs. With lower costs and new models such as the Chevrolet Equinox — a small SUV that seats five — GM began its comeback.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said GM’s bottom line also was helped by reductions in debt and pension liabilities following the bankruptcy process.

Shares of GM rose 17 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $34.76 in premarket trading.

GM made less in the fourth quarter than it did during the three previous periods, mainly because of the charges and higher expenses from launching two new vehicles, the Chevrolet Cruze compact and Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car.

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