Company News: Ford Motor, Apple, Sotheby's, American Airlines, Google
• U.S. pickup buyers helped steer Ford Motor to one of its best years. The carmaker’s profit surged 90 percent, to $3.04 billion, in the fourth quarter, thanks primarily to buyers in North America and Asia. Ford sold 6.3 million vehicles last year, a 12 percent increase over 2012. Yet the company warned of a bumpy road ahead: It expects little change in sales and slimmer margins in 2014 as it retools production lines for 23 new or significantly updated models.
• Holiday shoppers weren’t as hot on Apple’s new iPhones as analysts thought they’d be. The company recorded only a 7 percent increase in smartphone sales in the recent quarter. That lackluster demand kept profit flat compared with a year earlier.
• Sotheby’s is burnishing its investor appeal just five months after activist Daniel Loeb blasted the company’s corporate strategy. The auction house said it would pay $300 million in a special dividend in March. It’s also considering a sale of its New York headquarters and a $150 million stock buyback.
• American Airlines, newly merged with US Airways, soared on fast-rising fares in its first quarter as the world’s largest carrier. Sales on a combined basis climbed 8.7 percent, to $9.98 billion. Profit was $436 million excluding some costs vs. a loss of $42 million a year earlier.
• Google struck a deal with the largest optical health insurer in the U.S. to offer prescription lenses for Glass, its Internet-eyewear product. VSP Global said it will reimburse the 64 million members of its vision insurance arm an average of $120 when they buy the titanium frames. VSP will not subsidize the companion computing device—which costs $1,500.