DETROIT — Ford Motor Co., the world's most profitable auto maker, Monday announced record third-quarter income of $703 million, up 1.4% from a year ago despite a 7% drop in its worldwide vehicle sales.
Ford earned $2.76 per share on sales of $15.2 billion, against $2.61 per share or $14.4 billion in the 1986 quarter.
"Despite slightly lower volumes, compared to a year ago, Ford continued to improve its underlying profitability," Ford Chairman Donald E. Petersen and Vice-Chairman Harold A. Poling said in a statement.
Ford cited higher income from its European and Asia-Pacific operations that offset a slight drop in overall North American earnings, compared to last year, when the company had a one-time gain of $102 million from sales of assets.
On a continuing operations basis, Ford said its earnings for the quarter rose 19%. Operating profit rose to $831.2 million from $702.4 million.
Higher Than Forecast
The net was marginally higher than forecast by Wall Street analysts, who had projected Ford's third-quarter earnings would be about $2.60 a share, or about $660 million. But the stock was hard hit in another Monday Wall Street selloff, sliding $6 to $68.
Ford's profits in the first nine months of 1987 rose to $3.69 billion, surpassing the full-year 1986 net of $3.3 billion and the $2.5 billion in the first nine months of 1986.
"It was a good, solid performance for Ford. The fact that their profit margins were up when vehicle sales were down shows real strength," said Michael Luckey, auto analyst for the Wall Street firm Shearson Lehman.
"With all the worries about the auto industry and the economy slipping into recession, this kind of earnings report should raise people's comfort level about Ford's ability to withstand a cyclical downturn," he said.
While revenue rose, worldwide factory (wholesale) deliveries of cars, trucks and tractors to dealers fell 7% to 1,239,188 from 1,334,775 a year ago.