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Ally Financial adjusted profit rises as costs fall

Traders work at the Post that trades Ally Financial Inc. following the IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 10, 2014. REUTE
Traders work at the Post that trades Ally Financial Inc. following the IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 10, 2014. REUTE

By Peter Rudegeair and Anil D'Silva

(Reuters) - Auto-lender Ally Financial Inc , which went public in April, reported on Thursday a rise in adjusted quarterly profit as the company cut both its financing costs and operating expenses.

Overall, net income fell to $227 million, or 33 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $1.09 billion, or $2.16, from the first quarter of 2013. But the year-earlier quarter included more than $1 billion in income from discontinued operations, including a $900 million gain from the sale of Ally's Canadian operations.

Excluding the discontinued operations and the impact of certain items, the company reported core income of $339 million before taxes, or 64 percent more than the $207 million it reported a year earlier.

Expenses fell 17 percent to $710 million as the company streamlined its business by selling some of its non-U.S. operations. Ally's cost of funds fell 0.55 percentage points as it called around $9.7 billion in legacy debt in the quarter and added $2 billion of retail deposits, or 17 percent more than a year earlier.

In Ally's main business of making U.S. auto loans, volume fell 5 percent to $9.2 billion in the quarter.

In the past year, Ally's agreements to make loans and leases that are partly subsidized by automakers Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co have expired, which has weighed on loan volume.

Ally Chief Executive Michael Carpenter told analysts on a Thursday conference call that the company is making progress diversifying away from Chrysler and GM. New loans made through non-Chrysler and non-GM dealers were up 40 percent compared to a year earlier and now comprise around one-fifth of total loans.

Pre-tax income in the auto finance business was down marginally to $339 million from $343 million as the lender set aside more funds to cover potential future loan losses.

Ally took a step toward exiting government ownership when $2.38 billion worth of its shares held by the U.S. Treasury started trading on April 10. This reduced the government's stake to 17.1 percent from 36.8 percent.

Reducing the government's stake to zero, which Carpenter had previously predicted would happen by the end of 2014, would contribute toward the company reaching its profitability target, namely a double-digit core return on tangible common equity.

That objective will get a boost in the second quarter when the bank, after receiving regulatory approval, will start paying dividends to its parent company. Executives said the dividend will be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in the quarter.

The company's market debut failed to click with investors as its shares fell as much as 5 percent on the opening day. The company's shares have has since traded largely below the listing price of $25.

Ally's shares were down 0.4 percent to $24.06 on Thursday afternoon.

(Reporting by Anil D'Silva in Bangalore and Peter Rudegeair in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Cynthia Osterman)

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