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Reuters / January 09, 2004

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said on Friday it expects stronger earnings this year, with improvements from its luxury brands and Europe, but the automaker's outlook was lower than some analysts had expected.

Ford forecast profits of $1.20 to $1.30 per share this year, or pretax profits of $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion excluding one-time items. Analysts currently expect Ford to earn $1.27 a share in 2004, according to Reuters Research, a division of Reuters Group Plc.

Shares of Ford fell to $16.59 in premarket trading early Friday on the Instinet electronic trading system from Thursday's close of $17.10 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The automaker, which may have been passed as the world's second largest in 2003 by Toyota Motor Corp, said it wants to earn between $900 million and $1.1 billion from its automotive business before taxes in 2004, with another $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion in pretax profits from financial services.

Ford has projected break-even profits from its automotive business in 2003, as positive results in North America and its Premier Automotive Group of luxury brands were offset by up to $1.2 billion in losses from Europe. Results for 2003 are due to be released this month.

For 2004, Ford sees losses dwindling to $100 million to $200 million in Europe, before taxes, and earnings of $500 million to $600 million from PAG, which includes luxury brands Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Pretax profits in North America are expected to be flat to down, in a range of $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion.

The company set a target of $500 million in cost savings for 2004 -- similar to the target set at the beginning of 2003, but far less than the $3 billion in cost cuts Ford said it made last year.
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