US automakers expect a rougher ride for the rest of the year

By Updated at 2017-07-26 19:53:53 +0000

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co on Wednesday joined rival General Motors Co in reporting higher-than-expected second-quarter profits, and in the next breath warning of a rougher ride for the rest of the year.

Ford said full-year pre-tax profit, automotive operating margins and cash flow would be lower than 2016 results, sending the company's shares down 2.1 percent.

Rival GM on Tuesday reported headline profits that beat analysts' estimates, but warned that profits for the second half of the year will likely be lower than the first half, as the company scales back scale back North American production to cut its burgeoning inventories.

Ford and GM's results present a counterpoint to other big U.S. companies reporting strong profits, including heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc, aircraft maker Boeing Co and telecommunications power AT&T Inc.

Investors worry that for Detroit's automakers, the second quarter marks a peak and profits are headed downhill. Thousands of workers at GM's U.S. factories are dealing with short- and long-term layoffs as production of slow-selling sedans is throttled back.

Ford's new Chief Executive, Jim Hackett, on Wednesday promised investors a rethink of Ford's spending, marketing and investment strategy within his first 100 days, focusing on the company's approach to emerging markets, small cars and its Lincoln luxury brand.

In the meantime, Ford is contending with sliding sales and rising costs. Ford's global sales fell by 43,000 vehicles in the quarter, and the company Ford said its full-year margin in North America, its most profitable market, would be lower than in 2016 due to $1.2 billion in additional commodity costs, costlier price cuts and engineering expenses.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told Reuters on Wednesday the company would be concerned if the United States imposed new tariffs on imported steel, as the Trump Administration is considering. "It would give producers here the opportunity to raise prices," he said.

Ford reported second-quarter net income of $2.04 billion, or 51 cents per share, up from nearly $2 billion, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier. A big contributor was a lower tax rate of 15 percent, half the level analysts had expected.

Excluding one-time items, Ford earned 56 cents a share, and on that basis analysts, on average, looked for 43 cents.

It forecast full-year adjusted earnings per share in a range from $1.65 to $1.85, above the $1.51 expected by Wall Street, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. However, the company has already booked 96 cents a share in adjusted profit - more than half its full-year target. GM has also generated more than half its full year target of $6 to $6.50 a share.

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski

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