Ford’s Earnings Are Coming. It’s All About Communication.

2 months ago 20
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The company said in April it expected second-quarter production to 50% lower than it had planned.

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Get ready for what could be a wild earnings report from Ford Motor on Wednesday evening. The global semiconductor shortage that is curtailing global automotive production is likely to slash both profits and cash flow. And what might happen to Ford ‘s full-year financial forecasts is anyone’s guess.

Clean communication is what the stock needs to build on its gain of more than 50% so far in 2021. Car sales are hot, so plain speaking should be enough for the stock regardless of how an odd second quarter turned out.

Ford (ticker: F) created some confusion in April, when it disclosed its first-quarter earnings. It said it expected about $6.5 billion in 2021 operating profit, including the effects of the semiconductor shortage but not counting a $900 million gain on the sale of part of its stake in the electric-vehicle company Rivian.

The problem was that back in February, Ford had projected about $8.5 billion in 2021 operating profit, so at first glance, the forecast appeared to have been reduced. But the February number included the gain from Rivian and excluded the impact from the semiconductor shortage.

The implied impact of the shortage was about $1.1 billion, roughly what should have been expected given what other auto makers were saying. Still, the communication was, frankly, a little difficult to follow. Some analysts said they were confused.

The stock dropped 9.4% the next day, sliding to $11.26 a share. On Monday, the shares closed at $14.03, bringing the year-to-date gain to about 56%.

For the second quarter, Wall Street is looking for a loss of 3 cents a share from $23 billion in sales. That would be a sharp reversal from the first quarter, when the company earned 89 cents from $36.2 billion in sales.

The problem is production, not demand. Ford said on its first-quarter earnings conference call that the global semiconductor shortage could hit second-quarter output by as much as 50%. We now expect to lose about 50% of our planned Q2 production, said CFO John Lawler. An increase from the 17% loss in Q1, making Q2 the trough for our performance this year.

What investors will want Wednesday evening is reassurance that there isn’t more bad news on the way. The shortage isn’t over, but investors would like to know that the second quarter was the worst of it. That would mean no new cuts to guidance due to a lack of semiconductors.

Production, the chip shortage, and the outlook for earnings in 2021 will be issues one, two, and three on the agenda for Wednesday evening. No. 4 is likely to be vehicle electrification.

For June, Ford reported a 117% year-over-year increase in electric-vehicle sales to 56,570. Sales of the Mustang Mach E came in at 12,975, up 27% from May.

In May, Ford said it plans to spend $30 billion on vehicle electrification by 2025, up from a previously stated goal of $22 billion. The extra $8 billion is meant to support Ford’s plans to produce EV batteries.

Barron’s recently wrote positively about Ford, believing new management could reinvigorate its EV plans and its existing product line. Since that article, Ford stock is up about 51%, better than the respective comparable 21% and 17% gains of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com

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