Ford: No dividend yet, despite solid earnings

@CNNMoney October 26, 2011: 9:47 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Ford Motor continued its turnaround story with its ninth straight quarter of operating profit, but did not announce the return of its dividend that investors had been seeking.

The nation's No. 2 automaker said Wednesday that it earned $1.8 billion, or 46 cents a share, in the third quarter, excluding special items. While that's down from the 48 cents a share it earned on that basis a year earlier, it's a bit better than the 44 cents a share forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Net income for the quarter was $1.6 billion, down from $1.7 billion a year earlier.

"We delivered solid results for the third quarter despite an uncertain business environment," said Ford CEO Alan Mulally in the company's earnings statement.

Revenue rose 14% to $33.1 billion, led by even stronger growth in revenue from its auto operations that topped forecasts. The number of vehicles sold worldwide rose 7% to 1.3 million, meaning that it benefited from both selling more cars and getting better prices when it did so. A combination of better transaction prices and lower incentive offers to buyers added about $900 million to its bottom line in the quarter.

The company made its money in its core North American auto operations, earning a $1.6 billion pre-tax profit that was little changed from a year earlier. But it was hurt by increased losses in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. Profits from its Ford Credit unit also declined by $185 million to $581 million.

The company did not immediately announce any decision on restoring a dividend, which it had suspended in 2006 due to ongoing losses at that time. Company officials had been saying they expected an announcement soon about a dividend, which had raised the hopes of investors that news might be included in the earnings statement.

"We don't have anything to announce today," said Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth in response to an analyst's question during a conference call. "We're on record saying we'd like to be paying a dividend sooner rather than later."

Asked what would finally tip Ford into to restoring the dividend, he added, "We want to see a little bit of continued improvement in our business."

Shares of Ford (F, Fortune 500) fell 2% in early trading Wednesday, despite the slightly better-than-expected earnings.

The company recently reached a new four-year deal with the United Auto Workers union that is expected to limit rises in its labor costs during the life of the deal and bring jobs back to U.S. plants from overseas.

The pact prompted credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's to raise its rating for Ford to the highest level still considered to be junk bond status. To top of page

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