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Ford Beats Estimates, Plans Debt Cuts

Ford earned $1.7 billion in the third quarter and said it would pay down its VEBA debt by $3.6 billion.
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DETROIT (

TheStreet

) --

Ford

(F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report

reported third-quarter net income of $1.7 billion, beating estimates, and said it will take additional steps to reduce debt.

The automaker earned 43 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated 38 cents.

Revenue declined 4% to $29 billion; analysts had estimated $29.1 billion. Excluding Volvo results, revenue increased by $1.7 billion.

In the same period a year earlier, net income was $997 million, or 29 cents a share.

During the quarter, Ford's pretax operating profit was $2.1 billion, an improvement of $1.1 billion. Ford automotive operations posted a pretax operating profit of $1.3 billion, a $953 million improvement.

The company said "strong products, momentum in North America and continued success at Ford Credit fueled growth amid still-challenging business conditions."

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"This was another strong quarter and we continue to gain momentum," said CEO Alan Mulally, in a prepared statement. "Delivering world class products and aggressively restructuring our business has enabled us to profitably grow even at low industry volumes in key regions."

Ford said it paid down its revolving credit line by $2 billion during the third quarter and, on Friday, will fully prepay the remaining $3.6 billion of debt owed to the VEBA retiree health care trust. The prepayment will reduce annual interest expense by about $330 million. Additionally, Ford announced conversion offers on two convertible debt securities.

By the end of the year, Ford will have reduced its total automotive debt by $10.8 billion from year-end 2009, reducing annual interest expense by about $800 million. Additionally, by the end of the year, automotive cash will be equivalent to debt, representing an improvement of $8 billion to $9 billion since the end of 2009. Ford ended the quarter with $23.8 billion of automotive gross cash and total liquidity of $29.4 billion.

"Our performance through the first nine months has clearly exceeded our initial expectations and is enabling us to make additional significant balance sheet improvements in the fourth quarter," said Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth.

Ford Credit reported third quarter pretax operating profit of $766 million, an $89 million improvement from the same period a year earlier.

Ford North America posted a third quarter pretax operating profit of $1.6 billion, a $1.3 billion improvement from a year earlier, and expects a full-year market share gain for the second straight year, marking the first time since 1993 that Ford has achieved consecutive annual increases.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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