Ford Reports Worst Loss: $12.7 Billion

by : Glady Reign

The Ford Motor Company earlier announced that it lost more than $12.7 billion last year - the biggest annual deficit in the its 103-year history. The old record net loss was $7.39 billion in 1992, but through three quarters of 2006, Ford already had lost $7 billion. The figure did not only dwarf the previous grim loss, but also surpassed the $10.6 billion loss of GM back in 2005.

Most of the losses were attributed to non-recurring charges stemming from its North American restructuring campaign. Ford also said it will cut production in the first quarter by 10,000 more vehicles than previously announced and will eliminate shifts at two more factories. "We began aggressive actions in 2006 to restructure our automotive business so we can operate profitably at lower volumes and with a product mix that better reflects consumer demand for smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles," said Alan Mulally, Ford's president and chief executive officer. "We fully recognize our business reality and are dealing with it. We have a plan and we are on track to deliver."

Mullaly pointed out that about 38,000 U.S. hourly workers have accepted buyout offers. He added that most of those will leave the company by September. Ford also cut down about 14,000 white-collar jobs. In addition, the company already has idled its Georgia and Missouri plants. Its Wixom factory is also expected to close this summer. The Virginia plant will also end later this year. The company also announced that it will be eliminating shifts at its Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne and the St. Thomas facility in Ontario.

Plant closures are aimed at concentrating more closely with the reduced demand for its car and trucks in North America. In the said territory, Ford's sales fell by 214,000 units in the fourth quarter. According to Don Leclair, Ford's chief financial officer, much of that decline was due to the company's decision to halt production of the Ford Taurus. Though the aging vehicle was one of Ford's biggest sellers, all of those sales were going to fleet customers - mostly to daily rental companies. Such sales usually involve negligible margins and dilute the value of other products. "Going forward, our fleet share will decline as we focus on retail sales," Leclair added.

The company plans to cut vehicle production by 10,000 in the first quarter of this year. This is in connection with the previously planned reductions. Leclair said North American production will also be down in the second quarter of 2007, but he added that it should improve over greatly reduced levels in the second half of 2006.

In 2005, Ford reported operational loss of $1.9 billion after taxes. Ford then perceives what is forthcoming. In fact, it said that it will not return to profitability until 2009. For the last quarter of 2006, the company reported a net loss of $5.8 billion, up dramatically from the $74 million fourth-quarter loss reported in 2005.

Analysts also knew this was coming but the magnitude is more powerful than expected. According to a survey done by the Thomson Financial Network, analysts were expecting an after-tax operational loss of $1.35 per share. "Everyone knew it was going to be bad. It is bad," said bond analyst Bradley Rubin of BNP Paribas. "It's not affecting spreads."

"We do not see much downside for Ford shares, given soft financial targets outlined through 2009," said Jon Rogers, an equity analyst of the Citigroup before the final numbers were announced. "Upside from current share price levels could result from advanced restructuring expectations and trimming the timeline to profitability." Unfortunately, Ford ended the year with $46 billion in cash for its automotive operations, including recently negotiated lines of credit using its assets as collateral.

"Ford's finances were wrecked by the collapse in volume and pricing of its most profitable truck models," said David Healy of Burnham Investment Research. "Buyers realized that these metal monsters were only marginally more useful than crossover SUVs at half to two-thirds the price. At the same time, the threat of new competition for Ford's vital F-Series pickup trucks caused a sharp reduction in volume, yet the full competitive effect of GM's and Toyota's new full-sized pickups are still to be felt."

"We fully recognize our business reality and are dealing with it," Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement. "We have a plan, and we are on track to deliver." Now, the company is strictly implementing its restructuring plan. It is also improving other Ford brands to support the company's endeavors. Volvo, for one, is modifying its lineup to create futuristic and functional vehicles to cater to a broader market range to include the young enthusiasts. The automaker has upgraded , engines and other auto parts as well as car accessories to boost the vehicles' charisma.