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Ford Posts a Record Profit for 2015

By John Rosevear – Jan 28, 2016 at 11:56AM

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A strong fourth-quarter result helped the Blue Oval to net income of $7.4 billion for 2015, with good profits in Asia and Europe contributing to an outstanding result in North America.

Trucks and SUVs, including an all-new Ford Edge, powered Ford to a record profit in 2015. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford Motor Company (F 3.88%) released its fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 earnings results on Jan. 28. Here's what you need to know.

The key numbers

 Q4Q4 Increase (Decrease)Full-Year 20152015 Increase (Decrease)
Revenue $40.3B $4.4B $149.6B $5.5B
Wholesales 1,775K 195K 6,635K 312K
Pretax Income $2.6B $1.3B $10.8B $3.5B
Net Income $1.9B $4.4B $7.4B $6.1B
Operating Margin 6.1% 2.7 points 6.8% 2.2 points
Operating Cash Flow $2.1B $1.6B $7.3B $3.7B

Big profits in North America, good results in Europe and Asia
Simply put, Ford's most profitable vehicle lines sold very well during the quarter, particularly in North America, Europe, and China.

Ford's U.S. sales rose 7.7% in the fourth quarter, ahead of the overall market, while sales of its particularly profitable F-Series pickup line rose 9.7%. Together with strong SUV sales, that was ample to power Ford North America to a pretax profit of $2.02 million, up $415 million from a a year ago.

In Europe, new products have led to rising sales and an increase in market share -- and a profit, despite ongoing challenges in Russia. Ford Europe earned $131 million during the quarter, helping it to a full-year pretax profit of $259 million, Ford's first full-year profit in Europe since 2011.

Ford's Asia-Pacific region also posted a strong profit for the quarter. Its $444 million pretax gain was powered by results from China, where Ford has managed good sales and profitability despite a slowing market. SUVs get credit for that. Ford CFO Bob Shanks noted that a China-only three-row version of the new Ford Edge has been an especially hot seller in recent months.

On the other hand, South America continues to be a challenge as worsening economic conditions in key markets (Brazil and Argentina, in particular) continue to take a big bite out of new-vehicle sales across the industry. Ford South America lost $295 million during the quarter, but Shanks said that it could have been worse: Ford's managers in the region did a good job of controlling costs, he said, and the unit made gains in net pricing (in dollar terms) despite inflationary pressures. 

A strong net cash position and upbeat guidance for 2016
Ford ended the year with $23.6 billion in cash and another $10.9 billion in available credit lines. It had $12.8 billion in automotive debt, its lowest level since 2000. 

Shanks and CEO Mark Fields reiterated their previous 2016 guidance: Ford expects its full-year 2016 results to match or beat its 2015 revenue, operating margin, pretax profit, and earnings per share.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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