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Ford falls into the red for the fourth quarter

Southfield, Michigan

FORD Motor Co descended into the red in the final three months of 2018, dragged down by deeper deficits overseas and a loss on its pension fund.

The carmaker reported a net loss of US$116 million for the fourth quarter, missing analysts' average estimate for income of US$1.27 billion. This is just the second quarterly loss Ford has posted on a GAAP basis since early 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

CEO Jim Hackett has been trying to overhaul the carmaker by killing off slow-selling sedans, boosting spending on sport utility vehicles and trucks, and making salaried staff cuts worldwide. Last week, he announced an alliance with Volkswagen AG to jointly develop commercial vans and trucks and said the two companies will explore working together on electric and self-driving cars. But analysts have criticised the company for not providing more details on its turnaround plans and failing to give guidance on its 2019 outlook, other than saying it has the potential to be better than last year.

Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer,described about US$3.4 billion worth of headwinds Ford faced last year. This tally included: Roughly US$1 billion related to commodity costs; about US$770 million each linked to tariffs and Takata air-bag recalls; around US$760 million in unfavourable foreign-exchange swings. The CFO reiterated that the UK's efforts to leave the European Union have major implications for the company, whose namesake brand is the top-seller in Britain. If the country ends up making a so-called hard exit from the trade bloc in March, there will be a "material impact" on Ford, Mr Shanks told reporters.

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Ford reported an US$877 million loss on its pension and retirement-benefit plans for the quarter. Excluding that and other items, the company posted an adjusted profit of 30 cents a share, in line with analysts' estimates and preliminary results released last week. That's down from 39 cents a share a year earlier. BLOOMBERG

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