Ford Posts Profit, Autos Disappoint Again

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. on Thursday reported a quarterly profit, reversing a year-earlier loss, as earnings from its finance arm offset weak automotive operations.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker said fourth-quarter net income was $104 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $793 million, or 43 cents a share.
Ford took a charge of $390 million in the quarter to write down a receivable from its former parts unit, Visteon Corp. The charge relates to reimbursements that Ford receives from Visteon for providing health-care benefits and life insurance to Ford hourly employees assigned to Visteon.
Excluding special charges totaling $491 million after taxes, Ford earned $555 million, or 28 cents a share, in the quarter. Wall Street analysts' average forecast was 27 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.
Sales fell to $44.72 billion from $45.87 billion a year earlier.
The automaker continued to lose market share in the United States. Ford's U.S. light vehicle sales fell 4.9 percent in 2004 and it ended the year with a market share of 18.3 percent, its lowest level in more than three decades.
Ford's automotive unit had a pre-tax loss of $470 million in the fourth quarter, compared with a pre-tax profit of $13 million a year earlier.
Ford Credit, on the other hand, posted earnings of $543 million, up from $470 million a year earlier.
Earnings for both Ford and General Motors Corp., which reported lower profits on Wednesday, show how much the two Detroit auto giants rely on their lending arms while they cut costs amid intense competition. More than three-fourths of GM's 2004 profit came from its lending operations.
Ford's core North American automotive operations lost $470 million before taxes in the fourth quarter, compared with a pre-tax profit of $205 million a year earlier, primarily due to lower vehicle volumes.
Automotive operations are key to Ford's future profitability, especially to achieving its annual pretax earnings target of $7 billion by 2006. Ford made $5.81 billion before taxes and special items in 2004.
Ford Europe and Premier Automotive Group, which includes money-losing Jaguar, posted a pre-tax loss of $324 million in the fourth quarter, down from a profit of $176 million a year earlier. The deterioration was due to lower production volumes and the weaker U.S. dollar, the automaker said.
Ford is to more details on its financial outlook for 2005 next week.
Yet another $.02 worth from a proud owner of a 2001 Ford Ranger 4x4 and a 1970 Mach 1 351C @ http://community.webshots.com/album/18644819fHAehGJAjt
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Thinking of getting a 2005 F350 this summer so all I hope is that Ford drops the intrest rate down in Canada as that would make my mind up on a new truck for sure . We do not get the good rates as they give in the U.S.A..?
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