Ford driven to distraction by weaker demand

Ford reported weaker-than-expected profits
Ford reported weaker-than-expected profits
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CAR giant Ford reported weaker-than-expected profits yesterday as it was hit by higher costs and weak demand outside North America.

Losses in Europe nearly quadrupled during the past quarter, with flooding in Thailand also leading to a deficit in Asia and increased competition reducing profits in South America.

Excluding one-off items, Ford’s operating profit fell to $1.1 billion (£700 million), from nearly $1.3bn a year earlier.

Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager of Hodges Capital Management, said: “They’re still losing money overseas, while the US continues to go well for them. Between commodity costs and European woes, it’s been tough for Ford.”

The group’s losses in Europe widened to $190m in the quarter from $51m a year earlier.

Europe accounted for nearly a quarter of Ford’s 2011 revenue, and the company predicted the market would remain uncertain.

But Ford, which is the best-selling brand in the UK, projected a higher overall operating margin this year on the strength of stronger profits in North America, which generates more than half annual revenues.

The firm has been able to command higher prices for its cars and trucks in its home market as its range continues to improve in fuel efficiency and technology. Several models are planned for launch this year, including the Fusion midsize vehicle. Ford is the first of the three Detroit-based car makers to report results for the fourth quarter, with General Motors and Chrysler Group figures due next month.