Ford first quarter profit rises 15 pct to $1.6b

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford says net income rose 15 percent in the first quarter to $ 1.6 billion as record North American profits overcame weakness in Europe and South America.

Ford beat Wall Street’s forecast with earnings of 40 cents per share, up from 35 cents in the first quarter of 2012. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast earnings of 37 cents per share.

Without one-time charges, including restructuring costs in Europe, Ford would have earned 41 cents.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $ 35.8 billion, beating Wall Street’s forecast of $ 33.5 billion.

Ford Motor Co. earned $ 2.4 billion in North America, where sales of its F-Series trucks and Fusion sedan and Escape SUV have been strong. That offset a $ 462 million loss in Europe, where Ford’s sales fell 20 percent during the quarter.


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ManpowerGroup rises as 2Q outlook tops St. view

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of staffing company ManpowerGroup rose Friday after the company’s first-quarter results and its outlook for the current quarter bested analyst expectations thanks to cost cuts and tax credits.

The company said Friday that its net income fell 41 percent to $ 23.9 million. That was in large part because of a $ 25.3 million charge for severance and consolidating offices. But excluding that, earnings rose, even as revenue shrank. ManpowerGroup has been shrinking its business as economic weakness in Europe weighs on hiring there.

Business trends are still not good. Revenue fell across the Milwaukee company’s geographic regions in the Americas and Europe during the January-March period.

On a per-share basis, earnings came to 31 cents, down from 50 cents in last year’s first quarter. But excluding the restructuring charge, profit rose to 63 cents per share in the latest quarter, far exceeding analysts’ prediction of 45 cents per share, according to FactSet. The company said it also benefited from tax credits.

Revenue dropped 6 percent to $ 4.77 billion from $ 5.1 billion. That matched analysts’ expectations.

But helping offset the revenue decline were cost cuts, which began at the end of last year. Selling and administrative expenses fell 2 percent, to $ 735.7 million. The cost of running its business slid more than 6 percent, to $ 3.98 billion.

In the current quarter, ManpowerGroup expects profit of 84 to 92 cents per share before restructuring costs. Analysts expect 77 cents per share.

Shares of ManpowerGroup rose $ 1.98, or 3.8 percent, to $ 53.49 in late afternoon trading. Shares hit a 52-week high of $ 57.75 earlier Friday.


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American Express’ 1Q profit up as spending rises

American Express said Wednesday that its net income edged up 2 percent in the first quarter, as increased spending by cardholders helped boost revenue for the credit card issuer.

While the latest earnings came ahead of Wall Street expectations, revenue fell short.

Management also announced plans to raise its dividend in the next quarter by 15 percent to 23 cents per share, and it will return up to $ 3.2 billion to shareholders through share buybacks this year. It plans up to $ 1 billion more in buybacks in the first quarter of next year.

The New York-based company said cardholder spending rose 6 percent during the quarter, or 7 percent, excluding the impact of foreign currency exchange. Annual cardholder membership fees also increased from a year earlier.

“We are off to a strong start in 2013, thanks to our ability to grow revenue in a slow growth economy, control expenses and maintain a strong balance sheet,” CEO Kenneth I. Chenault said in a statement.

American Express cardholders tend to be more affluent than other credit card users, which was one reason the company has done well during the economy’s slow rise out of the recession.

Even so, credit card spending traditionally slows in the first three months of the year, as consumers focus on paying down cards after more spending during the holiday season.

Sales at U.S. retailers declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in March. That followed a 1 percent gain in February and a 0.1 percent decline in January.

Some of that decline may have been due to an increase in Social Security payroll taxes that went into effect in January and cut into many Americans’ paychecks.

Despite the payroll tax squeeze, American Express revenue for the quarter came in ahead of the same period last year.

“In the quarter, spend growth continued to be healthy, and was relatively consistent with the past several quarters, despite the negative impact of having an extra billing day in the first quarter of 2012 because of leap year,” Dan Henry, American Express’ chief financial officer, said during a conference call with analysts.

Total revenue grew 4 percent to $ 7.88 billion, but it fell short of the $ 8.01 billion that analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Net income rose 2 percent to $ 1.28 billion, or $ 1.15 per share, for the three months ended March 31. That compares with $ 1.25 billion, or $ 1.07 per share, in the same period last year.

Analysts had forecast adjusted earnings of $ 1.12 per share.

Expenses rose 1 percent to $ 5.5 billion, reflecting ongoing investments and efforts to trim operating costs.

The company has set itself a goal of keeping annual operating expense growth at less than 3 percent for the next two years as it moves to revamp its business, particularly its travel division.

Meanwhile loan losses — mainly card balances that it is unable to collect from customers — remained near all-time lows. The money it set aside to cover bad loans, known as a provision for losses, shot up 21 percent to $ 497 million, but that reflected higher loan loss reserve releases a year earlier.

Shares ended regular trading down 46 cents at $ 64.13 amid a broad market decline. The stock fell 38 cents to $ 63.75 in after-hours trading. Shares are up about 12 percent this year.


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Mattel 1Q profit rises, Monster High sales climb

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Mattel’s first-quarter net income more than quadrupled, as sales of Monster High and American Girl products rose.

The first-quarter is the seasonally smallest for toy makers, coming after the busy holiday quarter. The latest earnings increase was helped by comparison with a period that included a big charge a year ago.

“We continue to see the first quarter as our pre-season and we remain focused on a strong 2013 and delivering in the all-important holiday season,” Chairman and CEO Bryan Stockton said in a statement.

The world’s largest toy maker’s net income for the January-to-March quarter totaled $ 38.5 million, or 11 cents per share. That’s up from $ 7.8 million, or 2 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 8 cents per share.

The prior-year period’s results were weighed down by costs tied to its $ 680 million acquisition of HIT Entertainment, the company behind Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder.

Revenue climbed 7 percent to $ 995.6 million from $ 928.4 million. Wall Street expected $ 984.2 million.

Mattel Inc. saw solid sales across North America and overseas. American Girl gross sales increased 32 percent, while worldwide gross sales of other girls’ brands — which includes Monster High — surged 56 percent.

Barbie’s worldwide gross sales dipped 2 percent, marking the fourth time sales have fallen in the past five quarters. Sales for the Wheels category, which includes the Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Tyco R/C brands, also fell 2 percent. For the Fisher Price brands, sales declined 7 percent.

Mattel also said Wednesday that it declared a second-quarter dividend of 36 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on June 14 to shareholders of record on May 23. The El Segundo, Calif. company anticipates an annualized dividend of $ 1.44 per share, which would be a 16 percent increase over last year’s annualized dividend.

Mattel’s smaller rival Hasbro Inc. reports its financial results on Monday.


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Citigroup beats on earnings, revenue; stock rises

NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup beat analysts’ estimates for first-quarter earnings and revenue, and the bank’s stock rose in pre-market trading. Citi’s investment banking business jumped and the bank also released funds it had set aside for bad loans.

Citigroup bank made $ 4 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago, after stripping out the effects of an accounting charge. That amounted to $ 1.29 per share, beating the $ 1.17 that analysts polled by FactSet were expecting.

Revenue was $ 20.8 billion after stripping out the accounting charge, up 3 percent from a year ago. That also beat the $ 20.2 billion that analysts had expected.

Investment banking revenue there jumped 31 percent, the bank reported Monday, while revenue from consumer banking was flat. Citi’s investment banking unit advised more companies on mergers and acquisitions and underwrote more stock and bond offerings. In the consumer bank, credit card revenue inched down.

Citi Holdings, the unit where the bank has shuttled troubled assets related to the financial crisis, lost less than in the same period a year ago. Citi Holdings lost $ 789 million, compared with more than $ 1 billion a year ago.

The bank also continued to release money it had set aside for bad loans, including releasing reserves from Citi Holdings’ North American mortgage portfolio for the first time. Its total allowance for loan losses is now $ 23.7 billion, or 3.7 percent of total loans, compared to $ 29 billion, or 4.5 percent of total loans, a year ago.

Citi also benefited from a deferred tax credit. When companies have big losses, they get a break on taxes. Citigroup, which suffered big losses in 2008, was allowed to hold onto tax credits to use in the future, in years when it was profitable.

CEO Mike Corbat highlighted the bank’s improving capital levels and the reduced “drag” from Citi Holdings.

It was Citi’s first full quarter under Corbat, who took over last fall. Former CEO Vikram Pandit stepped down under pressure from a board that was unhappy with his efforts to turn around the bank. Corbat is now under pressure to turn around a bank that his predecessor couldn’t.

Corbat called the bank’s first quarter results encouraging, but he sounded more cautious about the economy than his peers at JPMorgan and Wells Fargo did when they reported earnings Friday.

“The environment remains challenging,” Corbat said in a prepared statement, “and we are sure to be tested as we go through the year.”

Citi’s stock rose 2 percent to $ 45.83 in pre-market trading even while stock index futures were down.


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