Ford 4Q Profit Misses Street View, Sales Beat

By Matt Egan Features FOXBusiness

The Good and Bad in Ford's Earnings Report

Alan Mulally, CEO and president of Ford, on the company's fourth-quarter earnings.

In a disappointing conclusion to its third-straight year of profits, Ford (F) posted weaker-than-expected earnings on Friday amid rising commodity costs and troubles at its international arm.

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Shares of the No. 2 U.S. automaker slumped nearly 6% in early trading.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford said it earned $13.6 billion, or $3.40 a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $190 million, or 5 cents a share, a year earlier.

While that marked the largest quarterly profit in Ford history, its earnings fall to $1.1 billion, or 20 cents a share, when one-time items like a tax allowance are removed. Analysts had been calling for stronger EPS of 25 cents on that basis.

Revenue rose to $34.6 billion from $32.5 billion, surpassing the Street’s view of $32.09 billion.

"Despite the continued uncertainty in the external environment, the strength of our North American and Ford Credit operations allows us to continue to invest for future growth and develop outstanding products with segment-leading quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value,” CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement.

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Ford suffered from more trouble overseas as its European segment posted a loss of $190 million, compared with a more modest loss of $51 million the year before. The automaker blamed higher material costs and lower subsidiary profits.

On the other hand, North American profits jumped to $889 million from $670 million and operating margins expanded to 4.5% from 3.9%. Higher commodity and warranty costs were offset by rising volumes and net pricing.

Ford’s financial arm, Ford Credit, posted a profit of $506 million last quarter, down from $650 million the year before.

Ford said it ended the year with $32.4 billion in total automotive liquidity.

Looking ahead, Ford projected its 2012 U.S. market share to be flat at about 16.5% and its pre-tax operating profits to be unchanged as well. The automaker said it also sees U.S. industry unit volume of 13.5 million to 14.5 million vehicles for 2012.

Shares of Ford dropped 5.26% to $12.07 Friday morning, eating into their 2012 gain of nearly 19%.