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Ford profit tops estimates on demand for pickups

DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, reported fourth-quarter profit that exceeded estimates as demand for its F-Series pickups drove record results for its operations in North America.

Ford reported net income of $1.6 billion, or 40 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, the per-share profit was 31 cents, exceeding the 25-cent average estimate of 19 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The result compared with net income of $13.6 billion, or $3.40 a share, a year earlier, when a tax gain boosted fourth-quarter earnings.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is using Ford’s turnaround in the United States to guide efforts to recover in Europe more quickly than competitors including General Motors.

Rising demand for F-Series trucks in Ford’s home market paced a record $8.34 billion annual pretax profit for the company’s operations in North America, which countered overseas losses. Ford U.S. hourly workers will receive profit-sharing bonuses.

“I’m still bullish on Ford,” said Gary Bradshaw, a fund manager for Dallas-based Hodges Capital Management, which sold about half of its shares before they started to rally in late October. “I’m going to hang on and hope it comes back to $18 a share.”

Ford closed at $13.78 yesterday in New York.

Ford reported net income of $5.67 billion for the full year. The profit in 2012 boosts the company’s earnings to $35.2 billion the last four years after losing $30.1 billion from 2006 through 2008.

Increased demand for Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford’s F- Series, which have led the full-size pickup segment in the U.S. for 36 years, is pacing the company’s results at home.

F-Series deliveries climbed 10 percent last year to 645,316, surpassing the 4.7 percent gain in Ford’s total U.S. vehicle sales.

Ford’s fourth-quarter revenue rose 5.5 percent to $36.5 billion, beating the $33 billion average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Ford will pay profit sharing of about $8,300 on average to its 45,300 hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers in March, a record payout, according to a company statement. The company paid $2,450 to each of its 41,600 workers for second-half 2011 profits a year earlier.

Mulally, 67, this month showed an F-150 prototype at the Detroit auto show with features that boost fuel economy and foreshadow Ford’s future for the segment. GM introduces revamped Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks later this year.

The F-Series accounts for 90 percent of Ford’s global auto profits, according to a Morgan Stanley estimate, and is helping underwrite the company’s European restructuring.

Mulally revived Ford after arriving in 2006 from Boeing Co. by using $23.4 billion that the company borrowed late that year to overhaul its lineup with fuel-efficient models such as the Focus and Fiesta.