General Motors on Thursday reported flat earnings for the fourth quarter, missing market expectations, despite rising sales that returned the US auto giant to the top rank globally. GM posted net income of $500 million for the final three months of 2011, the same as a year ago. Earnings were 39 cents per share, instead of 41 cents estimated by most analysts. Revenue rose three percent to $38.0 billion, compared with the year-ago period. For the full-year 2011, the automaker\'s profit soared to $7.6 billion, 62 percent higher than in 2010 and better than expected. \"In our first full year as a public company, we grew the top and bottom lines, advanced our global market share and made strategic investments in our brands around the world,\" Dan Akerson, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. \"We will build on these results as we bring more new cars, crossovers and trucks to market, and make GM a far more efficient global team. This includes reducing our break-even level in Europe and South America and driving higher revenues around the world.\" GM, which retook the top spot as the best-selling global carmakers from Toyota at the end of 2011, was upbeat about the 2012 outlook and predicted higher revenue. The results marked GM\'s sharp U-turn from near demise in 2008, when the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the US government for a bailout. In June 2009, it filed for bankruptcy which allowed it to change labor contracts and dump brands, dealers, workers and plants in the process. It emerged from bankruptcy much leaner and more focused, and in November 2010 returned to the stock exchange in a share offering that raised a massive $23.1 billion, helping it to pay back half of its government debt.