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Ford, GM profits fall as sales drop due to chip shortage

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Ford, GM profits fall as sales drop due to chip shortage

The global computer chip shortage cut into third-quarter profits at both Ford and crosstown rival General Motors, with both companies having to temporarily close factories, pinching supplies on dealer lots.

Ford’s net income of $1.83 billion fell 23% from a year ago, while GM’s profit dropped 40% to $2.4 billion. High prices, mainly for the pickup trucks and big SUVs that the automakers sold, eased the sting from lower sales.

Ford, which reported results after Wednesday’s closing bell, said it would resume paying a dividend, 10 cents per share, starting in the fourth quarter. It will cost the company about $400 million per quarter. Ford’s stock jumped 7.5% in after-market trading.

The company said its revenue dropped 5% from a year ago to $35.68 billion. That fell short of Wall Street estimates of $38.2 billion.

Excluding one-time items, the Dearborn, Michigan, company made 51 cents per share, beating the 27 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Ford’s sales fell 27% from July through September in the U.S., its most lucrative market. The company also lost 2.4 percentage points of U.S. market share, largely because like GM, it couldn’t produce enough vehicles to meet demand.

But the average Ford new vehicle sold for more than $51,000 during the quarter, up almost 13% from a year ago, according to Edmunds.com.

Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said Ford has the cash and income to invest in electric vehicles and services. He said the company is confident in the trajectory of its business.

“That’s providing us the financial flexibility to fully fund our plan and all of our other capital needs,” he said. “We also are focused on total shareholder returns, not only appreciating stock price but also the dividends.”

Lawler said there is strong demand for Ford’s products that the company can’t meet because of the chip shortage. Globally, he said he thinks the company could sell 200,000 Mustang Mach-E electric SUVs per year.

He said the chip shortage should ease a bit from October through December, and sales to dealers should rise 10% this quarter over the previous one. While supplies will improve, the shortage will continue into next year and possibly into 2023, he said.

Ford raised its full-year pretax earnings outlook to between $10.5 billion and $11.5 billion, and said it plans to make capital investments of $40 billion to $45 billion from 2020 to 2025. That includes about $15 billion that will go toward battery-electric vehicles during the period.

Lawler cautioned, however, that the company faces higher costs in materials and freight. Commodity costs such as steel are expected to rise $3 billion to $3.5 billion this year, and another $1.5 billion next year, he said.

GM’s earnings fell from $4 billion last year as sales slumped and the company lost market share in the U.S., also its most profitable country. Revenue for the quarter plunged 25% to $26.78 billion.

GM CEO Mary Barra, meanwhile, said on a conference call with analysts that she is “pretty confident” that GM’s San Francisco-based Cruise autonomous vehicle subsidiary would be carrying passengers without human safety drivers sometime next year. To do that, Cruise still needs a final permit from California regulators.

Barra also told reporters Wednesday that the global shortage of semiconductors, plus COVID outbreaks at supplier factories, hit the company during the third quarter. “It still continues to be somewhat volatile,” she said.

However, GM is seeing improvement in the current quarter and expects additional supplies in the first three months of 2022.

GM has said it expects to produce about 200,000 fewer vehicles in the second half of this year compared with the first half, with most of the impact occurring from July through September.

Barra said she’s spoken with the CEOs of most major chip makers, and the companies are working on strategies to make sure the shortages don’t happen again. “I think we’ll definitely see changes to ensure we have the right supply,” she said.

GM’s profit came even though U.S. third-quarter sales were almost 33% lower than a year ago. The company lost 3.8 percentage points of U.S. market share, Edmunds said.

But Barra said she expects GM’s market share to bounce back when factories get back to normal production. “We are selling everything we can. I wish we had more vehicles,” she said.

Consumer willingness to pay high prices for scarce new vehicles kept the money flowing for GM. The average sale price paid for a GM vehicle topped $50,000 for the quarter, up more than 16% from a year ago, Edmunds said. Barra said that once supplies grow, she expects the high prices to ease.

With the expected improvement in chip supplies, GM increased its full-year net income guidance to a range of $8.1 billion to $9.6 billion. In the second quarter it had forecast $7.7 billion to $9.2 billion for the year.

Shares of GM closed Wednesday down 5.4% at $54.26.


DETROIT (AP)

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Google failed to respect ‘Don’t Be Evil’ policy when firing engineers

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“Don’t be evil,” is the famous motto of Alphabet Inc. was not honored by the company especially after breaching their employment contracts, a group of former Google employees highlighted on Monday.

Google have failed to respond to comments on the matter, while it previously said that the employees violated data security policies.

Furthermore, former Google employees Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke alleged, in the lawsuit filed in California state court in Santa Clara County, that they were fired two years ago for fulfilling their contractual obligation to speak up if they saw Google violating its “don’t be evil” pledge.

The lawsuit noted that the motto that comes under Google’s policies calling for “acting honorably and treating each other with respect” and engaging in “the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct,” was considered by workers within immigration work as “evil.”

The company’s code of conduct says workers who think the company may be falling short of its commitment should not stay silent, the lawsuit said. For around 20 years, Google promoted “don’t be evil” as a core value, including when it went public in 2004.

In addition, the three software engineers raised concerns in forums inside Google about the company potentially selling cloud technology to U.S. immigration authorities, which at the time were engaging in detention tactics considered inhumane by rights activists, including separating migrant children from their families.

Workers taking part in the suit have failed to specify the amount of damages.

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China to set rules to protect drivers’ rights in ride-hailing Industry

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China defined new rules on Tuesday to protect the rights of drivers in its giant ride-hailing industry, requiring operators of the services to provide them with social insurance and make their earnings public.

As such, the rules came after Chinese regulators told companies including Didi Global, Meituan, Alibaba Group’s Ele.me and Tencent Holdings, in September, to improve their income distributions and guarantee rest periods for drivers and food-delivery riders.

Also, China’s state media has also criticized Didi, the country’s dominant ride-hailing platform, for not paying drivers fairly.

The new rules come as President Xi Jinping called for China to achieve “common prosperity,” seeking to narrow a wide wealth gap that threatens the country’s economic incline and the legitimacy of Communist Party’s rule. Also, the rules could increase costs for ride-hailers and impact their earnings.

In addition, the industry in China hit an overall transaction volume of $39.22 billion in 2020, according to a report by the Internet Society of China.

To be more specific, the transport ministry said that ride-hailing companies should improve income distribution mechanisms. “Anti-monopoly measures will be stepped up against such companies and a ‘disorderly expansion of capital’ will be prevented in the sector,” it added.

However, regulators in China criticized the biggest technology firms regarding their policies that exploit workers and violate consumer rights, as part of a campaign to exercise more control over large swathes of the economy after years of runaway growth.

The Chinese regulator imposed, in August, a limit on the percentage the delivery platforms take from drivers’ fee, according to a transport ministry official.

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Cyber Monday caps holiday shopping weekend as virus lingers

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Cyber Monday caps holiday shopping weekend as virus lingers

Americans are spending freely and going back to store shopping, knocking out some of the momentum in online sales from last year when Americans were making many of their purchases exclusively via the internet.

Shopper traffic roared back on Black Friday, but it was still below pre-pandemic levels, in part because retailers spread out big deals starting in October. The early buying is expected to also take a bite out of online sales on Monday, coined Cyber Monday by the National Retail Federation in 2005.

In fact, Adobe Digital Economy Index said that it was the first time online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday hadn’t grown, and Cyber Monday could likewise see a decline compared with a year ago. Adobe, which tracks more than one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, had previously recorded healthy online sales gains since it first began reporting on e-commerce in 2012.

Still, Cyber Monday should remain the biggest online spending day of the year. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe.

A possible game changer is the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which could put a damper on shopping behavior and stores’ businesses. The World Health Organization warned Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

Jon Abt, co-president and a grandson of the founder of Abt Electronics, said that holiday shopping has been robust, and so far overall sales are up 10% compared to a year ago. But he said he thinks Cyber Monday sales will be down at the Glenview, Illinois-based consumer electronics retailer after such robust growth from a year ago. He also worries about how the rest of the season will fare given the new variant.

“There are so many variables,” Abt said. “It’s a little too murky.”

Here is how the season is shaping up:


CYBER MONDAY STILL KING BUT COOLING

Consumers are expected to spend between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion on Monday, making it once again the biggest online shopping day of the year, according to Adobe. Still, spending on Cyber Monday could drop from last year’s level of $10.8 billion as Americans are spreading out their purchases more in response to discounting in October by retailers, according to Adobe.

Both Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day online shopping came in below Adobe’s prediction. On Black Friday, online sales reached $8.9 billion, down from the $9 billion in 2020, the second largest day of the year. On Thanksgiving Day, online sales reached $5.1 billion, even from the year-ago period.

Harley Finkelstein, president of Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, which has 1.7 million independent brands on its site, said that so far, Cyber Monday is off to a strong start. Sales on his platform were up 21% on Black Friday compared with 2020 and more than double compared with 2019. He said he believes that independent brands will see better percentage sales gains online than big national chains, as shoppers gravitate more toward direct-to-consumer labels and look for brands with social conscience. And he says these brands have been able to get the inventory. Among some of the hot items on Shopify are children’s couches from Nugget and luxurious linens from Brooklinen.

“I think it is a tale of two different worlds,” he added.


BLACK FRIDAY BACK BUT NOT THE SAME

Overall, Black Friday store traffic was more robust than last year but was still below pre-pandemic levels as shoppers spread out their buying in response to earlier deals in October and shifted more of their spending online. Sales on Friday were either below or had modest gains compared with pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to various spending measures.

Black Friday sales about 30%, compared with the year-ago period, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of payments, including cash and credit cards. That was above its 20% growth forecast for the day. Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard, said the numbers speak to the “strength of the consumer.” For the Friday through Sunday period, sales rose 14.1% compared with the same period in 2020 and were up 5.8% compared to 2019, Mastercard reported.

Customer counts soared 60.8% on Black Friday compared with a year ago, but were down 26.9% on the same day in 2019, according to RetailNext, which analyzes store traffic with monitors and sensors in thousands of stores. Sales rose 46.4% on Black Friday but were down 5.1% in 2019, according to RetailNext. Sensormatic, another firm that tracks customer traffic, reported a 47.5% surge in traffic on Black Friday compared with a year ago but that number fell 28.3% compared with 2019.


THE CHANGING DISCOUNT LANDSCAPE

Unlike in years past, many big box stores like Walmart didn’t market their discounted goods as “doorbusters,” in their Black Friday ads, choosing instead to stretch the deals out throughout the season or even the day. And the discounts are smaller this season as well.

Shoppers were also expected to pay on average between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research. That’s because whatever discounts are offered will be applied to goods that already cost more.

And for the first time, discounts on Cyber Monday compared with a year ago are expected to be weaker, according to Adobe. Still, Cyber Monday remains the best day to buy TVs with discount levels at 16%, compared with 19% discounts last year. Other categories where consumers will find deals include clothing at a 15% markdown, compared with 20% last year. Computers are being discounted at 14%, compared with 28% last year, according to Adobe.

Overall holiday sales could be record breaking. For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased about 8% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.


NEW YORK (AP)

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