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Published: Friday, 1/28/2011

Ford's 2010 profit double over 2009, highest since 1999

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said Friday it earned a $6.6 billion profit in 2010, less than the company was expected to report, but the most since 1999.

It was more than double Ford's 2009 profit of $2.7 billion. Its U.S. sales jumped 20 percent last year, double the industry rate. Revenue rose 3 percent to $120.9 billion.

Ford said its hourly workers will receive an average profit-sharing check of $5,000. The profit-sharing checks that Ford's 40,600 U.S. hourly employees will get in March will be the largest since they got $6,700 in 2001.

But Ford's performance fell well short of Wall Street's expectations for the first time in two years. Its stock plummeted, even though the company said it expected to earn more money this year. Ford stock sank more than 13.4 percent to $16.27.

For the year, Ford earned $8.3 billion, or $1.91 a share, on an operating basis, up from $38 million, or 1 cent a share, a year ago.

Wall Street analysts' expectations were for $2.08 cents a share.

"These results significantly call into question the idea that Ford's North American margins should expand" as industry sales increase, JPMorgan Chase analyst Himanshu Patel said.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said earnings missed analyst expectations because of rising raw material costs, the launch of several new vehicles such as the Ford Explorer, and an increase in product development costs. Ford's raw material costs increased about $1 billion in 2010, he said, but those issues should not slow Ford down this year.

He stressed Ford sliced its automotive debt $14.5 billion, ending 2010 with $19.1 billion. That should help cut annual interest payments about $1 billion.

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