Ford (NYSE: F [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) reported fourth quarter earnings in the pre-market Tuesday that beat analyst forecasts. Although revenue was slightly weaker than forecast in the quarter, shares initially rose in the pre-market on relatively strong guidance before giving back much of the gains.
For the fourth quarter of 2012, Ford reported earnings per share of $0.31 compared to forecasts of earnings per share of $0.26. In the same period a year ago, Ford reported earnings per share of $0.22, meaning that earnings per share grew 41 percent from the same period a year ago.
Revenue was slightly weak in the quarter, at $33.1 billion, slightly below forecasts of $33.17 billion. Sales grew two percent from the same period a year ago.
Other highlights from the press release showed that Ford grew its cash position to bolster its liquidity and results were driven by positive trends in North America.
Ford generated $1 billion in free cash flow in the fourth quarter and $3.4 billion in free cash flow for the full year 2012, increasing its total cash to $24.3 billion and its liquidity position to $34.5 billion. Ford also noted that North American results drove the strong earnings while European sales continued to weigh as the continent escapes recession.
"Our focus this year will be to continue our strong performance in North America and at Ford Credit, while at the same time, addressing challenges and opportunities in other parts of our business," said Bob Shanks, Ford chief financial officer.
"In Europe this means executing our transformation plan, while in South America we will continue to refresh our entire product line-up, and in Asia Pacific we will continue to invest for even stronger, profitable growth in the future."
Jamie Albertine, Stifel Nicolaus' Ford Analyst, told Benzinga yesterday that Europe would be key for Ford.
"Everytime we talk to [Ford], its about their plans for Europe. We need to get more clarity around stabalization, when Europe can approach break even," Albertine said.
Ford said it would lose $2 billion in Europe this year, more than it had previously anticipated. Ford's management characterized Europe's economy as remaining tepid.
Looking forward, Ford sees continued sales and earnings growth in the North American market while it expects to be break-even in South America and a loss of approximately $2 billion in Europe in 2013. Ford also expects the Asia Pacific region to be about break-even in 2013.
Ford shares initially popped then sold off on the earnings release. Shares declined 1.74 percent pre-market to $13.54 per share. Shares are just below the 52-week high at $14.30.
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