Ford CFO Don Leclair said on Wednesday that the company was projecting improved profitability in 2004, both overall and in its automotive unit, Reuters reported.

The news agency said Leclair made the comments in a conference call to discuss Standard & Poor's decision to lower the company's credit rating to one notch above junk and added that Ford would provide more details in January.

According to Reuters, Ford expects to earn between 95 cents and $1.05 a share for all of 2003, and have break-even profits in its automotive business.

Leclair also reportedly said Ford's European operations would post a "small profit" in the fourth quarter of 2003 excluding restructuring charges.
Reuters noted that Ford had previously projected break-even results in Europe, where it has told of some $US650 million in restructuring.