Ford's 3Q Surpasses Forecasts; Co. Mum on Dividend

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Ford (NYSE:F) disclosed a lighter-than-expected 2% decrease in third-quarter profits on Wednesday thanks to a double-digit increase in revenue.

Shares of Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford slumped as shareholders may have been disappointed management did not lay out a timetable for reinstating dividend payouts, which were stopped in September 2006.

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The iconic U.S. auto maker said it earned $1.65 billion, or 41 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $1.69 billion, or 43 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 46 cents a share, topping forecasts by two cents and beating the Street for the 10th straight quarter.

Revenue jumped 14% to $33.1 billion, surpassing the Street’s view of $29.9 billion.

“We delivered solid results for the third quarter despite an uncertain business environment by continuing to serve our customers around the world with best-in-class vehicles," CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement. "We accomplished this while continuing to invest for future growth and focusing on developing outstanding products with segment-leading quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value."

Ford, which unlike GM and Chrysler did not succumb to bankruptcy during the economic crisis, continued to pare its liabilities. The company said it trimmed its automotive debt to $12.7 billion at the end of last quarter, down from $14 billion. However, gross cash declined $1.2 billion to $20.8 billion.

Ford surprised some analysts by not detailing plans to resume a dividend. Lewis Booth, the company's chief financial officer, told reporters, "We want to return to paying a dividend as soon as we think our balance sheet will stand it, and when we're ready to talk about it we will."

Looking ahead, Ford said it expects fourth-quarter global production of 1.37 million vehicles, up by 22,000 from a year ago. It raised its fourth-quarter North American production forecast by 15,000 vehicles to 660,000.

Ford said it increased market share in Europe and the U.S. last quarter, highlighted by a 14% rise in domestic sales from a year earlier.

Despite the EPS beat, shares of Ford retreated 5.6% to $11.72 Wednesday. The company’s stock has already slumped more than 25% year-to-date, compared with a 33% tumble for rival General Motors (NYSE:GM).

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