Ford 2010 profit highest in a decade as sales rise

By Dee-Ann Durbin

and Tom Krisher

AP Auto Writers

DEARBORN (AP) -- Ford earned its largest profit in more than a decade in 2010, as demand for its cars and trucks rose and it benefited from years of restructuring.

It was the company's best performance since 1999 and the first time it has earned back-to-back annual profits in six years.

Ford earned $6.6 billion, or $1.66 per share. That's more than double its 2009 profit of $2.7 billion, or 86 cents per share.

Ford's U.S. sales jumped 20 percent last year -- double the rate of the industry -- as an improving economy spurred demand for the company's F-Series pickups and other vehicles. Ford became the top-selling brand in the U.S. last year, beating out Chevrolet and Toyota for the first time since 2003.

Revenues rose 3 percent to $120.9 billion.

But the company fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet were forecasting earnings of $2.05 per share, but they didn't take into account several one-time items, including charges for discontinuing the Mercury brand. Without those items, Ford would have earned $1.91 per share.

Ford ended the year with $19.1 billion in debt and $20.5 billion in cash. It was the first time Ford has had more cash than debt since the second quarter of 2008.

Last year's results included $853 million in charges for reducing the company's debt, including losses for converting notes to stock and cash. Ford said it cut its debt from $33.6 billion to $14.5 billion in 2010, reducing its interest payments by a little more than $1 billion.

Ford also reported a $339 million charge for the discontinuation of the Mercury brand. Ford announced last summer it would stop producing Mercurys by the end of the year.

Ford earned $190 million, or 5 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $886 million, or 25 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2009. Its quarterly results included a $960 million charge for debt conversion offers that helped lower its debt.

Fourth-quarter revenues were $32.5 billion, down $2.3 billion from the same quarter a year ago.

The company made money in every region including Europe, where it lost money last year.

Published: Mon, Jan 31, 2011