Earnings Preview: Ford Investors' Patience Could Be Tested This Week

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After months of expensive preparation, Ford began building its all-new F-150 pickup late last year. But dealers won't have full inventories until summer, and Ford's profits may be slimmer than usual until then. Source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company is gearing up to report its earnings bright and early on Tuesday morning.

What analysts are saying:

  • Buy or sell? Thomson/First Call tracks 17 analysts covering the Blue Oval. Five say it's a buy, while 12 say it's a hold.

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What management says:
Ford CEO Mark Fields and his team have told us to expect a strong full-year performance from Ford in 2015, a pretax profit of between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion (up from $6.3 billion in 2014). But they've also warned us that the majority of the fat profit they're expecting will come later in the year than usual.

Typically, Ford earns the majority of its profits in the first half of the year. Earnings have historically tended to sag in the second half because of the costs of launching the next year's new products. But Fields and CFO Bob Shanks have said that the cycle will be different this year, because of the massive and still-ongoing costs of launching the all-new version of Ford's cash cow, the F-150 pickup.

Here's a chart from Ford that shows us what to expect this year.

Source: Ford Motor Company.

Fields recently told The Motley Foolthat the innovative aluminum-bodied pickup's launch is right on track and the pace of sales has been strong so far. But, he said, Ford's dealers won't have full supplies of the new truck until "mid to late summer" -- early in the third quarter, in other words. That's when Ford's sales and profits should start to rise.

What management does:
The F-150 drives the bulk of Ford's profits in North America, and Ford's North America unit is carrying the company while it restructures in Europe and invests for future growth in Asia.

In the short term -- this quarter, and possibly next -- Ford's profits will be constrained, just as they were in the second half of 2014. But the new truck (and the work overseas) is setting Ford up for good profit growth over the next couple of years.

Ford is restructuring in Europe after several years of losses. Those losses should be smaller in 2015, and Ford expects a profit next year. Meanwhile, in Asia, Ford has spent almost $5 billion on a slew of new factories. That spending has kept Ford's Asian profits slim, but that should start to change as the last of those new factories get up to speed over the next couple of quarters.

What this Fool says:
A year ago, Ford missed estimates after hitting some potholes overseas. I don't expect any such surprises this time around. Fields and Shanks have been pretty clear about what to expect: Quarterly profits will fatten up in a big way soon, but not quite yet.

Long story short: Ford has spent the last few years making big investments for future growth. As shareholders, we like that. The fruits of those investments will start to be apparent soon. But right now, a little more patience -- and tempered expectations -- is required.

Expect Ford's first-quarter net income to total just over a billion dollars, beating Wall Street's per-share estimate by a penny or two.

The article Earnings Preview: Ford Investors' Patience Could Be Tested This Week 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.