Ford Profit Hit by Losses in Overseas Markets

“It was not a year we were happy with and the fourth quarter continued that theme," CFO Bob Shanks said.
Matthew HellerJanuary 24, 2019
Ford Profit Hit by Losses in Overseas Markets

Ford Motor’s ailing overseas operations weighed heavily on its latest quarterly results as every global region except North America posted losses.

For the fourth quarter, the automaker reported operating income, adjusted for one-time items, of $1.5 billion, generated entirely by its lending arm and the North American business.

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Net income swung to a loss of $116 million, or from a $2.5 billion profit a year earlier, reflecting in part a nearly $900 million, noncash hit to the value of its global pension plans, driven by the stock-market downturn late last year.

Ford’s fourth-quarter earnings per share were 30 cents, missing the 32 cent average estimate of Wall Street analysts.

“It was not a year we were happy with and the fourth quarter continued that theme,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told reporters.

In North America, where Ford has shifted its focus to trucks and SUVs, it posted a pre-tax profit of $2 billion. The largest loss of $381 million was in Asia, driven by China where the company’s sales have plummeted.

As Reuters reports, Ford is restructuring its operations in all its unprofitable regions, announcing earlier this month that it would cut thousands of jobs and look at plant closures in Europe as part of its plan to return to profit in that market.

“Ford is also slashing a cumulative $25.5 billion in costs by 2022 while overhauling its lineup of vehicles in most major markets after letting some of them age for longer than they should have,” The Wall Street Journal noted.

Shanks noted that tariffs cost the company more than $750 million last year. He also warned of the risk of the U.K. leaving the European Union without a trade deal, saying it would hurt Ford’s substantial manufacturing and sales operations in the country.

When asked about Ford’s South American operations, the finance chief said it had no announcement to make yet. He acknowledged the potential for disruptions in 2019 including strikes in Europe as the company continues its restructuring.

“The external environment has been quite volatile,” he said.