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These Highlights Drove Ford Motor Company's Solid Third-Quarter Despite Slowing Sales

By Daniel Miller - Oct 27, 2017 at 7:17AM

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One of Ford's most overlooked advantages, along with strong F-Series sales, helped drive strong third-quarter results.

Earlier this month, October 3rd to be precise, Ford Motor Company's (F 1.71%) CEO Jim Hackett delivered a presentation with plans to shake up the automaker's strategy going forward. Unfortunately, the strategic presentation had few details which left most analysts and investors looking toward Thursday's third-quarter presentation for a reason to be optimistic about the path ahead. The good news? Ford easily topped estimates and posted a solid quarter despite declining sales.

Numbers and notes

Ford's revenue checked in at $36.5 billion during the third quarter, up from the prior year's $35.9 billion, despite a slight decline in wholesale volume and market share. On the bottom line, Ford's net income jumped more than 60% to reach $1.56 billion, or $0.39 per share. When adjusted for one-time items Ford's earnings per share checked in at $0.43 per share which was well above analysts' calling for $0.32 per share.

"This quarter, we achieved more balanced results, with improvements in growth, profitability and cash flow. Ford Credit also continues to perform well. Our solid results give us confidence to tighten our full-year adjusted EPS guidance to the high end of the range, now at $1.75 to $1.85." said Bob Shanks, Executive Vice President & CFO, in a press release.

Key highlights

One driving force behind Ford's top and bottom lines, despite the slight decline in wholesale volume, was demand for its bread-and-butter F-Series. The F-Series had its best third-quarter in the U.S. since 2005 with sales up 14% and average transaction prices up $2,800 to $45,400, compared to the overall segment's respectable $1,600 gain. A strong third-quarter from the F-Series also helped drive Ford's automotive segment operating margins 170 basis points higher to 5%, and its pre-tax profit from $0.6 billion to $1.7 billion.

Ford's F-150 truck driving under a bridge

Ford's 2018 F-150. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford's often overlooked secret weapon, Ford Credit, also turned in another strong quarter and was one of the underlying reasons management nudged overall guidance toward the higher end for the full-year. Retail financing helped drive global receivables higher, and stronger than expected auction values helped its overall performance. Ford Credit's third-quarter pre-tax profit jumped $33 million to $600 million and the improved residual values now give management confidence that Ford Credit will exceed $2.0 billion in full-year pre-tax.

An important region for long-term investors is Asia Pacific, where Ford hopes China will drive the region to a second pillar of revenue and profit strength in the coming years. Again, despite a slight decline in wholesale volume Asia Pacific posted record third-quarter operating margin and pre-tax profits driven by material cost reductions and lower structural costs. More specifically, Ford's pre-tax earnings jumped $158 million over the prior year to $289 million with operating margins moving 360 basis points higher to 7.9% -- impressive results.

Investors will continue to wait for more details about Ford's vision going forward concerning global strategy, autonomous vehicles, portfolio of electric vehicles and smart mobility projects, but margin improvements and bottom line strength -- driven partially by F-Series, Ford Credit and Asia Pacific -- in the face of declining wholesales was certainly an encouraging sign heading into the last quarter of 2017.

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