Ally Financial posts Q4 profit as U.S. auto sales increase image

Ally Financial, the biggest U.S. auto lender, posted a fourth-quarter profit as more consumers purchased cars and trucks.

The company’s net income was $1.4 billion, compared with a loss of $206 million a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. Core pretax income was $19 million, rising from a $172 million loss a year earlier.

The U.S. Government owns 74 percent of closely held Ally, which doesn’t report earnings per share. The quarter included three months in which annualized vehicle sales neared their best pace since 2008. Ally was rescued by the federal government during the credit crisis, a move that gave the U.S. a controlling stake.

Ally CEO Michael Carpenter is selling assets to repay the company’s $17.2 billion federal rescue. The executive is narrowing Ally’s focus to auto loans and U.S. retail banking, at the same time trying to protect the firm from claims related to its Residential Capital unit, which went bankrupt because of losses on subprime home mortgages.

“Our core auto services and direct banking platforms made substantial progress amid competitive markets,” Carpenter said in a statement.

Ally said income at its automotive finance unit rose to $371 million from $285 million a year earlier, thanks to a 60 percent rise in lease originations. Mortgage operations showed a $100 million profit, little changed from a year earlier.