Ford announces $129M Q3 loss, burns $7.7B in cash

DEARBORN, Michigan -- Ford Motor Co. says it lost $129 million in the third quarter as the struggling automaker burned through $7.7 billion in cash.

Ford also said Friday that it will cut about 2,260 more white-collar employees in North America as it tries to weather the worst economic downturn in decades.

Ford says it lost 6 cents per share for the quarter, compared with a loss of $380 million, or 19 cents per share, a year ago.

The company posted a pretax loss of $2.7 billion from continuing operations. But it was offset partly by a $2 billion gain as the company shifted retiree health care liabilities to a trust run by the United Auto Workers.

Sales fell 22% to $32.1 billion from $41.1 billion due to lower volume and the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover.

Excluding special items, Ford lost $1.31 per share, worse than Wall Street expected. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a loss of 94 cents per share on sales of $28 billion.

Dearborn-based Ford reported its worst three-month performance ever in the second quarter, when it lost nearly $8.7 billion.

The cash burn — in which a company spends more money than it takes in — was far higher than the $2.1 billion it burned through in the second quarter.

Ford said the cash burn primarily reflected pretax automotive losses, changes in working capital and payments to its credit arm to reduce interest rates for buyers. It was exacerbated by sales drops and production cuts of 500,000 fewer vehicles from second-quarter levels, resulting in $3 billion less in incoming cash for the quarter.

Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth would not say if he expects the cash burn rate will continue at the present levels.

"With our present assumptions, we are comfortable with our liquidity position," Booth told reporters Friday morning. "I think it goes without saying, forecasting the future at the moment is extremely difficult. Trying to find out just exactly what is happening with the consumer is really tough."

Industry analysts say that if the economy doesn't improve, Ford could run out of money sometime after 2010.

U.S. automakers have approached the U.S. government for low-interest loans as they try to weather the global economic slowdown.

Ford is among automakers that are talking with the European Commission for a 40 billion euro low-interest loan. It also is talking to other governments.

Ford said it will cut North American production in the fourth quarter by 40,000 units more than what was announced in September, primarily with shift reductions and temporary plant shutdowns. In September, the company announced a fourth-quarter production cut of 171,000 units over the fourth quarter of last year, mainly in trucks.

The salaried cuts, Ford said, equate to about 10% of its North American salaried work force of 22,600.

It also said that it has no plans to offer more buyout or early retirement packages to blue-collar workers.

Ford announced that some of its vehicle programs will be deferred, although the company described the moves as minor timing changes.