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|Subject: Ford 4th-qtr profit up 19 pct, auto losses shrink|
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Date Posted: 10:31:10 01/23/06 Mon
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Ford 4th-qtr profit up 19 pct, auto losses shrink
Monday January 23, 9:07 am ET
By Poornima Gupta
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - News) on Monday posted a higher-than-expected 19 percent increase in earnings, boosted by strength in its finance arm and the sale of its Hertz Corp. rental car unit, even as its core automotive division lost money.
Ford, facing a deepening financial crisis in North America, said fourth-quarter net income rose to $124 million, or 8 cents a share, from $104 million, or 6 cents a share, a year ago.
Excluding special items, the company earned 26 cents a share, soundly beating the average analyst expectation of 1 cent a share.
Ford shares rose 35 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $8.25 on the Inet electronic brokerage system on Monday after closing at $7.90 on the New York Stock Exchange Friday.
Ford has been struggling with a loss in U.S. market share to foreign rivals, stalled sales of its large sport utility vehicles due to high gasoline prices and high commodity and health-care costs.
Losses at Ford's auto operations shrank to $12 million, before taxes and excluding special charges, from $470 million a year ago, while its finance arm contributed a profit of $737 million versus $859 million.
In North America, Ford lost $143 million during the quarter, before taxes and excluding special items, compared to a loss of $470 million a year ago. Ford cited cost cuts and pricing, partially offset by operating loses at the Visteon Corp. (NYSE:VC - News) car parts business activities, now controlled by Ford.
Ford ended 2005 with a market share of 17.4 percent, excluding its luxury brands, the lowest level since the late 1920s. The automaker is set to announce details of its restructuring plan, including plant closings and layoffs, later on Monday.
BIG HERTZ GAIN
Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford said total fourth-quarter revenue rose to $47.56 billion from $44.92 billion a year earlier. Automotive revenues jumped to $41.82 billion from $38.87 billion.
For the full year, Ford's North American vehicle operations lost $1.6 billion before taxes. Its worldwide automotive operations swung to a pretax loss of $1 billion from a profit of $850 million in 2004.
Despite the loss, Ford was profitable for the full year, earning $2 billion in 2005 as its finance arm posted a net profit of $2.5 billion.
"Excluding North America, our automotive operations made great progress in 2005. We must keep working to improve our business in each and every region," Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. said in a statement.
During the fourth quarter, Ford reported a pretax gain of $1.08 billion on the sale of Hertz, which was completed in December. The automaker sold the unit to an investor group in a transaction valued at about $15 billion, including the assumption of debt.
The automaker also took a charge of 68 cents per share for personnel reduction programs and impairment of Jaguar and Land Rover assets.
Ford's fourth-quarter net earnings were also reduced by 12 cents per share because of an accounting change related to its fixed-asset retirement.
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