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July 23, 2013, photo, shows a grill of a 2013 GMC Terrain AWD SLT-1 in Pittsburgh. General Motors reported a 53 per cent drop in profit in the third quarter due to a one-time charge of $800 million to buy back preferred stock from a retiree health care trust. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

General Motors' third-quarter net income fell 53 per cent compared with a year ago, as one-time expenses masked a strong performance in North America and a narrowed loss in Europe.

The company earned $698 million in the quarter, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $1.48 billion, or 89 cents per share, a year ago. But without $900 million in one-time items, GM earned $1.7 billion, or 96 cents per share. That beat Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected 94 cents per share.

Revenue rose 4 per cent to $39 billion, just short of Wall Street's estimate of $39.2 billion.

Investors viewed the results favorably. GM shares rose $1.18, or 3.3 per cent, to $37.24 in trading before the opening bell.

GM's performance in North America was especially strong, with pretax earnings up 28 per cent to $2.2 billion on solid pickup truck sales and better pricing. GM rolled out updated versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups in the spring.

The company's profit margin in North America — the percentage of revenue it gets to keep after expenses — was the highest in two years at 9.3 per cent. GM has a goal of 10 per cent pretax margins in the region.

"The new trucks are doing great in the marketplace," Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann said. "We're commanding good pricing. We're controlling costs."

GM's average sales price rose one per cent in the U.S. during the quarter to $34,566, according to Kelley Blue Book. Sales of the Silverado, its top-selling vehicle, were up 14 percent over last year's third quarter. Prices for the pickup rose by two per cent to an average of $36,487.

Cutting losses in Europe

In Europe, GM cut its loss by more than half to $214 million. Revenue there rose year-over-year for the first time in two years. Ammann said the company cut $400 million in costs during the quarter, and updated versions of its Opel Mokka small crossover SUV, Adam subcompact and Insignia midsize car sold well.

GM's International Operations, including Asia, saw pretax earnings fall 61 per cent to $299 million due to struggles in India and other areas outside of China. South American profit rose 79 per cent to $159 million. The company's financial unit saw a 20 per cent rise in pretax earnings to $239 million.

One-time items included $800 million to buy preferred stock from a health care trust for union retirees and a $48 million impairment charge in South Korea.