Ford's first-quarter earnings beat forecasts

Truck sales fuel 20% quarterly rise

Auto industry

April 16, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co., the world's No. 2 automaker, said yesterday that first-quarter earnings rose 20 percent, more than expected, because of strong sales of high-profit trucks in North America.

Profit from operations climbed to $1.81 billion, or $1.46 per share, from $1.51 billion, or $1.22, in the year-earlier quarter.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker had been expected to earn $1.39 a share, the average estimate in a First Call Corp. survey.

Ford benefited from strong sales of its restyled Ford Windstar and Mercury Villager minivans, its F-series and Ranger compact pickup trucks, and a redesigned Ford Mustang. Still, weak economies in Brazil and Argentina limited overseas sales growth.

"Ford's performance can be explained mainly by a 23 percent year-over-year increase in truck production," said GVA Research LLC analyst David Garrity.

Revenue rose 3.6 percent to $37.89 billion from $36.58 billion.

The first-quarter results do not include Ford's $6.45 billion acquisition of Volvo's car business March 31, which will be accounted for in the second quarter.

Ford also agreed this week to buy Kwik-Fit Holdings PLC of the United Kingdom for $1.63 billion.

The company also cut $100 million in costs as part of Chief Executive Officer Jacques Nasser's push to better compete with General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG.

Ford benefited from a much stronger-than-expected U.S. car market through the first three months.

Its North American auto operations earned $1.59 billion, up 57 percent from a year earlier.

Minivans, pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles accounted for 63 percent of Ford's U.S. sales in the first quarter, up from 58 percent a year earlier.

Light trucks are typically more profitable than small and medium-size passenger cars.

Ford shares rose 62.5 cents, to $62.75, on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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