Ford Motor Co
Ford's shares surged over 9 percent as the surprising profit and increased outlook overshadowed an expected announcement later Monday that the United Auto Workers union has rejected a tentative cost-cutting deal with the automaker.
The results provided more evidence that Ford has distanced itself from U.S. rivals General Motors Co
Ford seized North American market share from GM and Chrysler when they halted most production to prepare and execute their bankruptcy cases.
We're creating a very strong business and we are not taking taxpayer money, Chief Executive Alan Mulally said on a conference call with analysts. So the advantages clearly outweigh any potential disadvantage.
Ford reported $1.3 billion of positive cash flow in the third quarter, its first positive quarter since the second quarter of 2007, and forecasts positive cash flow in the fourth quarter. It burned through $4.7 billion of cash in the first half of 2009.
The company also reported its first quarterly operating profit in its key home market of North America since the first quarter of 2005.
Ford said it was confident the global economy would be improving by 2011, but it added the near-term growth outlook remains rather uncertain.
Some analysts believe Ford will be profitable in 2010.
As the market starts to turn and sales volumes start to recover, Ford should be solidly in the black next year, certainly ahead of schedule, Autoconomy.com analyst Erich Merkle said.
NORTH AMERICAN PROFIT
Ford reported a net profit of $997 million, or 29 cents per share, for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $161 million, or a 7 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell $800 million to $30.9 billion.
Operating profit was 26 cents per share excluding one-time items. On that basis, analysts on average expected a loss of 12 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The automaker's results were boosted by Ford Motor Credit Co, which reported that profits rose to $427 million in the third quarter from $95 million a year earlier.
From its automotive business, Ford reported a $446 million pretax operating profit worldwide, including positive results in all four of its regions.
Still, Mulally said he was cautiously optimistic and some financial market indicators were returning to levels seen before the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008, but consumer confidence and high unemployment remain a drag on the economies in the United States and Britain.
We're just not sure about the strength of the recovery, Mulally said.
Ford posted losses totaling $30 billion from 2006 through 2008 and remains saddled with a much heavier debt load than GM or Chrysler following their bankruptcy reorganizations.
Ford and other automakers are fighting through a plunge in auto sales in North America due to the recession. The company left its 2010 U.S. auto industry sales forecast at 12.5 million vehicles, including medium and heavy trucks, but said it would give an updated outlook early next year.
Until a U.S. economic recovery takes off, cash will remain king for Ford, which borrowed more than $23 billion in late 2006 to finance its turnaround and believes it has enough money to complete its restructuring.
Ford has also been cutting excess capacity and divesting brands to focus on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury. Last week, Ford named Zhejiang Geely Holding Group as a preferred bidder to acquire its Volvo brand.
Ford executives declined to comment on the expected rejection of a tentative agreement with the UAW until the results are released by the union.
Ford and UAW leaders reached the agreement in mid October, but the vote among some 41,000 Ford UAW workers met stiff opposition over a no-strike clause on wages and benefits. The pact included some production commitments and a $1,000 bonus.
The automaker received $500 million in annual labor cost savings from concessions negotiated with the UAW in February, but said it needed more cuts to align long-term costs with those of GM and Chrysler.
Ford's union workers in Canada ratified a cost-cutting deal over the weekend to preserve most of the Ford jobs in Canada.
Ford shares were up 67 cents, or 9.6 percent, at $7.67 at midday on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Soyoung Kim; Editing by John Wallace, Maureen Bavdek, Tim Dobbyn)