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Ford shares slide despite big third-quarter profit

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Ford Motor Co. posted a big third-quarter profit, but it was slightly less than the same period a year earlier as losses in Europe and Asia dragged earnings down.

Ford said it had net income of $1.6 billion, about 2% less than the same period a year earlier.

It was profitable in North America and South America but lost money in other regions of the world.

Revenue rose by $4.1 billion, or 14%, to $33.1 billion.

“We delivered solid results for the third quarter despite an uncertain business environment,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive.

Ford’s shares fell 81 cents, or 6.5%, to $11.62 midway through the trading day.

“Overall, it was a respectable quarter but there was nothing there to get the stock moving,” said Matt Collins, an analyst with Edward Jones.

He said Ford remains “on a gradual path to recovery, although the path is a bit bumpy.”  

The automaker continues to make progress improving its balance sheet. Ford sliced its debt to $12.7 billion by the end of the third quarter from $26.4 billion at the end of the same period a year earlier.

Company officials said Ford's financial health has improved to the point that it is considering reinstating a dividend, but they did not provide details on the timing.

The company borrowed heavily to restructure its business going into the recent recession. The strategy helped Ford avoid the bankruptcies and government bailouts that saved General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group, but left the automaker with heavy debt that it has been working to pay off.

Last week, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its corporate credit rating on Ford and the automaker's lending arm, to BB+ from BB-. That puts the company just one notch below an investment-grade rating, which is an important measure of corporate health and would reduce the automaker's borrowing expenses.

Ford's "new four-year labor contract with the United Auto Workers has been ratified; we believe the contract will allow for continued profitability and cash generation in North America,” Standard & Poors said.

But the automaker suffered a setback this week when Ford fell to 20th place among 28 brands rated for vehicle reliability by Consumer Reports, an influential guide for car buyers. Last year Ford was 10th.

Consumers have complained about problems with the new transmission systems in the company’s Fiesta and Focus models. The automaker was also hurt by glitches with the MyFord Touch information and entertainment system on many of its models.

Ford acknowledged the issue in its earnings report, saying, “Quality remains mixed due to some near-term issues in North America, which Ford is addressing.”

RELATED:

Ford tumbles in Consumer Reports reliability ratings

Detroit automakers still struggle to win California sales

Chevrolet plans big California sales and image campaign

-- Jerry Hirsch

Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally introduces the Focus ST at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

 
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