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Ford swings to $100M profit in 1st quarter, beats view

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[April 24, 2008]  (AP)  Ford Motor Co. surprised Wall Street on Thursday with a $100 million profit in the first quarter as strong results from Europe and South America helped offset the impact of a slumping U.S. economy that cut car and truck sales in its main market.

The company also said Thursday its latest round of early retirement and buyout offers netted 4,200 hourly workers, fewer than Ford had targeted.

Ford says it earned 5 cents per share in the January-March period. The No. 2 U.S.-based automaker lost $282 million, or 15 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Excluding special items, the company said it made $525 million after taxes, or 20 cents per share. That beat Wall Street's expectations. Thirteen analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had predicted a loss of 16 cents per share.

It was Ford's first profitable quarter since the second quarter of 2007 when it made $750 million. Ford reported a full-year loss of $2.7 billion last year, and it cautioned that the rest of this year will be tough.

"The remainder of 2008 will be a challenge but we are cautiously optimistic despite the external challenges," CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement. "Our plan is working."

Ford also lowered its industrywide U.S. vehicle sales forecast for the full year to a range of 15.3 million to 15.6 million. In January it had expected full-year sales of 16 million.

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The profit came despite a $45 million pretax loss in Ford's core North American automotive market. That was an improvement over a $613 million loss in the year-ago quarter, driven by $1.2 billion in cost reductions.

Company spokesman Mark Truby said Ford may offer additional buyout and early retirement packages on a plant-by-plant basis to further reduce its blue-collar work force.

Ford reported first quarter revenue of $39.4 billion, down from $43 billion a year ago due to the sale of its Jaguar-Land Rover and Aston Martin units. Excluding the sale, revenue would have been up slightly, the company said.

[Associated Press; By TOM KRISHER]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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