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General Motors Co's new Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra vowed on Thursday to maintain a "fortress balance sheet," which has been a mantra among executives at the biggest U.S. automaker since 2010, the year after it emerged from bankruptcy. In her first meeting with reporters since she took the top spot at GM last week, Barra said the company has been keenly focused on operating profitably everywhere it operates and maintaining a very strong balance sheet. GM said last week that modest growth in the U.S. and Chinese auto markets would help fund about $1.1 billion in restructuring costs in harder-hit regions, including Europe.
The Nokia handsets business that Microsoft is due to take over saw sales continue to slide in the fourth quarter as its Lumia smartphones failed to draw business away from larger competitors like Apple and Samsung. The devices and services unit, which will be transferred to Microsoft Corp., saw sales fall to 2.6 billion euros from 3.7 billion euros a year earlier. The unit recorded an operating loss of 198 million euros compared with a profit of 97 million a year earlier.
United Continental Holdings swung to a quarterly profit on strong results in December, lower fuel costs and higher fares, it said on Thursday. The parent of United Airlines earned $298 million in the fourth quarter, or 78 cents per share, compared with a loss of $190 million, or 58 cents, last year. United Continental is the No. 2 U.S. airline after the newly formed American Airlines Group. Revenue for the Chicago-based United Continental rose 7 percent to $9.3 billion. Shares of the company closed at $49.18 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
McDonald's reported weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue as fewer customers ate at its restaurants, partly due to severe winter weather in the United States. The fast-food chain also reported a 0.1 percent decline in global sales at established restaurants in the fourth quarter ended December 31. McDonald's shares fell nearly 1 percent in premarket trading. Chief Executive Don Thompson said in a statement on Thursday said "As we begin 2014, global comparable sales for the month of January are expected to be relatively flat."

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