Ford is beating GM at bleeding red ink

In the race to the bottom, General Motors Corp. has been losing $3.6 million a day this year while rival Ford Motor Co. has daily bled $14.4 million in red ink.

Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William Clay Ford Jr., who has argued against placing his company in the same boat with beleaguered GM, lost those bragging rights yesterday. Ford's first-quarter loss of $1.2 billion was nearly four times greater than the $323 million loss posted by GM on Thursday.


Ford attributed its latest loss to a hefty $2.5 billion charge for its extensive restructuring plan. It was Ford's biggest quarterly deficit since the final period of 2001, when it reported a $5.07 billion loss after taking $4.1 billion in charges for a previous restructuring plan.

"These special charges are becoming fairly 'unspecial' because they are occurring so frequently," quipped analyst Sean Egan of Egan-Jones Ratings Co., a Philadelphia corporate credit research firm.


Ford's chief financial officer, Don LeClaire, said in a conference call with analysts yesterday that the automaker still has about $1 billion in restructuring-related charges to book this year.

The first-quarter loss of 64 cents a share compared with a year-earlier profit of $1.2 billion, or 60 cents a share. Ford, the nation's No. 2 carmaker, said revenue for the quarter dropped 9 percent to $41.1 billion from $45.1 billion.

Ford, like GM, is suffering from swollen payrolls, underutilized factories, soaring health care costs and diminished U.S. sales in the face of fierce competition from Asian automakers.

The company said in January that it will close 14 North American plants, including seven auto assembly factories, and will cut 34,000 jobs from its North American payroll by 2012. Costs affiliated with that plan reduced Ford's first-quarter earnings by 88 cents a share. Without the special charges, Ford would have posted a profit of $454 million, or 24 cents a share.

That, however, was slightly below analysts' expectations, and led to a broad sell-off that drove Ford's stock price down 7.9 percent to close at $7.32, near the stock's 52-week low of $7.13.

In a statement yesterday, William Ford renewed his vow to return the company's North American automotive operations to profitability by 2008.

But Ford's Americas unit president, Mark Fields, cautioned that the path "is not going to be linear and smooth."

McDonald's Corp.


The world's largest restaurant company said its first-quarter profit fell 14 percent from a year earlier, when it had a tax gain. Sales rose 6.2 percent, spurred by the addition of a new blend of coffee and expanded store hours.

Net income dropped to $625.3 million, or 49 cents a share, from $727.9 million, or 56 cents, a year earlier. Sales rose to $5.1 billion.

The company recorded a gain of 3.5 cents per share from January's initial public offering of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. In the year-earlier quarter, McDonald's net income climbed 42 percent on a tax gain of $179 million after it settled an IRS audit.

3M Co.

The maker of products ranging from Post-it Notes to electronic road signs reported a 17 percent jump in first-quarter profit and raised its forecasts on demand for its optical film and respirators. Net income rose to $899 million, or $1.17 a share, from $771 million, or 97 cents, a year earlier, and sales climbed 8.3 percent to $5.6 billion.

3M beat its first-quarter forecast by a penny and said second-quarter profit will be $1.14 to $1.17 a share, including 8 cents from stock options expensing. Profit for the full year was put at $4.55 to $4.65 a share, up from the previous projection of $4.45 to $4.60.


RadioShack Corp.

The electronics retailer said its first-quarter profit plummeted 85 percent on disappointing sales of cellular phones and a write-down of the assets and inventory.

RadioShack said it earned $8.4 million, or 6 cents per share, for the quarter, compared with $55 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting 17 cents per share. Revenue rose to $1.16 billion from $1.12 billion a year ago. Same-store sales fell 1 percent.

John O'Dell writes for The Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.