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Old 04-21-2004, 06:06   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Ford's quarterly profit doubles to $2 billion

Ford's quarterly profit doubles to $2 billion

Rising sales and cost cutting pays off as automaker beats Wall Street expectations

Detroit News staff

Ford Motor Co. made $2 billion in the first three months of 2004, blowing past Wall Street's expectations and showing the strongest signs yet the company is returning to health.

“This is the best quarter we have achieved since we began our back-to-basics efforts more than two years ago, and it clearly demonstrates our plan is working and building momentum,” said Bill Ford Jr., Ford's chairman and chief executive.

The $2 billion in profit translated to 94 cents per share, more than double the 45 cents per share Ford made in the first quarter of 2003. A consensus of industry analysts projected the automaker would tally less than $1 billion in the first three months of this year.

Keying Ford's strong performance was an increase in overall revenue to $44.7 billion in the first quarter compared to $40.8 in the same period last year.

Ford's worldwide car and truck business tallied $1.8 billion in the first quarter, up from $1.1 billion a year ago. The automaker's performance was especially strong in North America, where it made $1.96 billion.

In South America and Europe, Ford turned losses from a year ago into slight profits. The company achieved similar reversals at its Premier Automotive Group -- its collection of European luxury brands that includes Jaguar and Volvo -- and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ford credited rising sales and cost cutting as the key drivers behind its improved earnings.

Ford Credit made $688 million in the first quarter, an increase of $246 million over a year ago.

“We are very pleased with our first-quarter results across all of our automotive and financial services operations,” said Don Leclair, chief financial officer. “Our efforts to improve our quality and our business struture are continuing to pay off.”

As a result, Ford raised its full-year earnings guidance from a range of $1.20 to $1.30 a share to a range of $1.50 to $1.60 per share. Ford expects to earn about 30 to 35 cents a share from continuing operations in the second quarter.

Ford in counting on the launch of the Mustang coupe and Five Hundred sedan later this year to boost sales and earnings.
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