Ford Earnings Preview: Short-Term Pain for Long-Term Gain

By Markets Fool.com

Ford's all-new 2015 F-150 should generate strong profits in 2015. But the costs of launching the new trucks will weigh on the Blue Oval's fourth-quarter earnings. Source: Ford Motor Company.

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Ford Motor Company is set to report fourth-quarter and full-year 2014 earnings this Thursday, Jan. 29.

For the full year, Wall Street expects Ford to earn $1.11 a share, the consensus estimate of analysts tracked by Nasdaq. That suggests a fourth-quarter result of about $0.25 a share -- a drop from the $0.31 a share it earned in the year-ago quarter.

Does that seem on target? Here's what we know.

Ford warned us to expect short-term pain for long-term gains
Back in September, Ford warned that its profits for the third and fourth quarters of 2014 would come in lower than investors had hoped. As company executives explained at the time, there are several short-term pressures affecting the Blue Oval's bottom line.

Chief among them: The costs of launching new products. Those costs include the massive expense of launching the company's all-new 2015 F-150 pickups. Making the new aluminum-bodied F-150s required massive overhauls to Ford's two truck factories. (The first of those two factories began producing the new trucks in late November; the second is currently undergoing its overhaul and will reopen in early spring.)

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Ford North America chief Joe Hinrichs has said that the extended factory downtime required to install the new tooling to build the aluminum-bodied trucks will result in 90,000 units of production lost by the time the conversions are complete. That's a huge cost for Ford, and of course, it comes on top of the logistics and advertising and other costs involved in launching an all-new vehicle.

Overseas pressures add to short-term headwinds
Ford also said in September that its losses in Europe would be worse than it had previously expected, about $1.2 billion for the full year. (Ford Europe lost $619 million through the first three quarters of 2014.)

Much of that has to do with the economic situation in Russia, where Ford has made a substantial investment in anticipation of long-term growth, but where a sharp drop in new-vehicle sales has forced Ford to scale back production in the near term.

Tough conditions in Europe have clobbered new-car sales -- but Ford has gained market share with strong products. Near-term costs are high, but losses should drop sharply in 2015. Source: Ford Motor Company.

The company also warned in September that it would lose $1 billion in South America for the full year, as tougher-than-expected economic conditions in several Latin American nations have put pressure on new-vehicle sales across the industry.

Ford is also dealing with a very difficult situation in Venezuela, where currency controls imposed by the government have made it nearly impossible for Ford to convert U.S. dollars to Venezuelan bolivars -- and thus nearly impossible for Ford to pay its local suppliers. Ford said in a regulatory filing last week that it would take a one-time charge of about $800 million in the fourth quarter as it makes accounting changes related to the Venezuelan situation.

So, what will Ford's fourth-quarter profit look like?
Ford has been forecasting a full-year profit of about $6 billion before taxes, a forecast that it reiterated in that regulatory filing last week. That suggests a fourth-quarter profit of about $800 million -- Ford made $5.2 billion before taxes and special items in the first nine months of 2014.

Of course, that's pre-tax profit, and it doesn't include that huge one-time charge for Venezuela, or any other special items Ford might need to declare as it wraps up 2014. But Ford's new trucks, its other new products, and its work overseas should set the company up for a big rebound in 2015. It currently expects its pre-tax profit for 2015 to come in between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion.

The article Ford Earnings Preview: Short-Term Pain for Long-Term Gain originally appeared on Fool.com.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.