Ford Motor swung to a net loss of $783 million in the fourth quarter as special charges offset strong underlying results in markets including Europe.
The charges were related to Ford’s change in its pension accounting, the cancellation of a plant in Mexico, and a safety recall. Excluding those items, Ford earned $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter, or $0.30 per share, a 28-cent decline from a year ago and a 1-cent miss from Wall Street estimates of $0.31 a share.
Revenue fell 4% to $38.7 billion, reflecting a U.S. sales decline of 2% during the quarter and headwinds in China, where new-car pricing continues to weaken.
But for the year, Ford made $10.4 billion in pretax profit, the second-best in company history after 2015’s record $10.8 billion.
The company’s fourth-quarter performance was particularly strong in Europe, where Ford earned $166 million, up 27% from a year ago. Revenue was roughly flat, at $7.2 billion, but as The Motley Fool reports, “Ford was able to eke out an 0.5% improvement in operating margin to 2.3% as buyers continue to favor highly profitable well-optioned versions of Ford’s mainstream models.”
For the full year, Ford earned $1.2 billion in Europe, a huge jump from its $259 million profit a year ago.
The switch to mark-to-mark pension accounting resulted in a $3 billion one-time charge to earnings, while Ford also took a charge of $200 million related to its cancellation of the San Luis Potosi, Mexico factory.
According to the Detroit Free Press, global growth should continue to keep Ford’s financial results strong during this year, but “the uncertainty and possible volatility caused by new policies from the Trump administration together with a slowing U.S. auto market has prompted in part the automaker to stockpile more cash.”
Ford expects the number of cars and lights trucks sold in the U.S. this year — the automaker’s most important market — to drop to 17.7 million from 17.9 million sold in 2016.