The No. 2 U.S. automaker also affirmed the 2014 profit outlook it
presented to investors last month.
Ford has described 2014 as a transition period that will test the
strength of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally's team and the
company's restructuring since he took over in 2006. This year will
also bring the critical introduction of the redesigned F-150
full-size pickup truck in the fall.
Guggenheim Securities analyst Matthew Stover said Ford's first
quarterly drop in North American vehicle pricing in five years was
"It sort of foreshadows what we will see in 2014," he said. "North
America is going through a churn, and international operations are
not going to be strong enough to offset that."
Ford said last month that vehicle pricing in the U.S. market would
be "slightly unfavorable" in 2014. That combined with the cost of
introducing 23 new vehicles and a deteriorating Venezuelan economy
would dent its profit this year, the company said.
On Tuesday, shares of Ford were up 0.2 percent at $15.74 in midday
Ford's net income in the fourth quarter rose to $3 billion, or 74
cents a share, from almost $1.6 billion, or 40 cents a share, a year
The results included a $2.1 billion gain from the addition of
deferred tax assets to the balance sheet, as well as charges of $311
million for last year's pension buyouts and plant closures in
Excluding one-time items, Ford earned 31 cents a share, 3 cents more
than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected.
Analysts also attributed some of the outperformance to a
lower-than-expected tax rate.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $37.6 billion, above analysts' estimates
of $35.17 billion.
In North America, Ford's pretax earnings were $1.7 billion, a
decline of $200 million, as vehicle pricing fell for the first time
in five years due to increased competition. However, the profit was
higher than expectations of $1.5 billion by RBC Capital Markets and
$1.43 billion by Barclays.
Citi analyst Itay Michaeli said the pricing declines for the
industry tended to hit small and mid-size cars and small crossover
vehicles. However, pricing remains strong for larger SUVs and pickup
trucks for now, he added.
The lower pricing for Ford led South Texas Money Management to sell
some of its stake in the company, said Leah Bennett, the San Antonio
firm's co-chief investment officer.
"I think they're going to be more vulnerable to opportunistic
pricing from the Japanese automakers," she said.
In fact, Buckingham Research Group analyst Joseph Amaturo in a
research note urged investors to sell Ford shares, saying increased
downtime for the F-150 launch could reduce North American pretax
profit by $800 million this year.
Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks declined to discuss the
financial impact of the truck changeover, but added the launch was
largely the reason for the operating profit decline the company has
forecast in North America. He added 2014 would be an "atypical year"
for Ford due to the product introductions and uncertain South
[to top of second column]
For the fourth quarter, Ford reported a wider-than-expected loss of
$126 million for South America, compared with a year-earlier profit.
Its $571 million loss in Europe, though smaller than in the previous
year, was still wider than analysts had expected. Earnings in Asia
Pacific Africa surged more than 170 percent to $106 million.
Ford's 2013 pretax profit of $8.57 billion was the second-highest in
the last decade, trailing only 2011's $8.76 billion.
On Tuesday, Ford said it still expected global pretax earnings of
between $7 billion and $8 billion this year, with lower auto
The company has said 2014 will be the busiest launch year in its
111-year history. Of the 16 new vehicles slated for North America,
its most-watched will be the next version of the F-150 truck, which
is the best-selling pickup in North America and a big profit center
for the company.
Ford has reduced the weight of the new truck by using more aluminum
than in the current models.
F-150 production will be down this year for 11 weeks at Ford's truck
plant in Dearborn and two weeks at a Kansas City, Missouri, factory
to prepare for the new version, Shanks said. Three of those shutdown
weeks in Dearborn will occur in the first quarter.
Last year, the F-150 assembly plants had five weeks of downtime,
four of which occurred during the normal summer shutdown.
Guggenheim's Stover said Ford was more likely taking the downtime in
the first quarter to reduce inventory of the truck and not for the
changeover to the new model.
Ford said its global pension plans were underfunded by $9 billion at
the end of 2013, an improvement of $10 billion from the end of 2012
and $1 billion better than it had previously forecast.
Of the $9 billion pension shortfall, $6 billion was for plans the
company does not have to contribute to in advance. Shanks said that
meant Ford would have more cash to invest because it only had to
fund $3 billion upfront.
Ford also said that because of its 2013 earnings, it would make
record profit-sharing payments of about $8,800 per person to about
47,000 U.S. hourly employees.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Bernie
Woodall; editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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