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Ford finishes 2013 strong, but faces a tough year

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm •  Published: January 28, 2014
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. enjoyed one of the best years in its history in 2013, but the celebration won't last long.

The Dearborn-based automaker posted a pretax profit of $8.56 billion — the second-highest in the past decade — and worldwide sales were up 12 percent to 6.3 million cars and trucks. That was a faster pace than Toyota, the industry leader, whose sales rose 2 percent to 9.98 million.

But Ford has already warned of leaner results this year as it launches a record 23 vehicles and builds seven plants around the world. It's anticipating 13 weeks of expensive down time — up from five in 2013 — at its two U.S. pickup truck plants to prepare for the launch of a new aluminum-clad F-150. And instability in South America and price competition in the U.S. are constant threats.

Ford expects pretax profit of between $7 billion and $8 billion, and says its operating margin and cash flow will also fall because of the vehicle-introduction costs. Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said capital expenditures will total $7.5 billion this year and in the next two to three years, up from $6.6 billion in 2013 and more than twice what it spent four years ago.

Ford's fourth-quarter net income totaled $3 billion, or 74 cents per share. Excluding a big tax gain, net income was 31 cents per share, 4 cents better than analyst estimates, according to FactSet.

Investors initially reacted favorably to the news. Ford's stock rose 2 percent in morning trading, but was flat at $15.71 by late afternoon.

Buckingham Research analyst Joseph Amaturo urged investors to sell Ford stock and set a $12 one-year price target. He noted that Ford's fourth-quarter pretax earnings fell 24 percent even though the company reported a 3.5 percent revenue increase. He also estimated that the downtime at Ford's truck plants this year could cut North American pretax profits by $800 million.

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