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Ford posts pre-tax profit of $2.1bn in first-quarter

The US car giant losses more than triple in Europe.

Ford Motor Company has posted a pre-tax profit of $2.1bn (£1.4bn) for the first-quarter of 2013, driven by profit in North America.

The US car giant made a loss of $462m in Europe, which is more than triple what the company lost in first-quarter of 2012, due to unfavourable market factors, and restructuring costs related to the transformation plan for its European business.

The company expects to lose $2bn in Europe over the whole of 2013 as the outlook of the business environment in the continent remains uncertain.

Daimler and Volkswagen have seen big falls in profits due to a slump in European car sales.

The company’s first-quarter profits were slightly lower than the $2.3bn it made in the same period last year. But in North America pre-tax profit increased from $2.1bn to $2.4bn, the company’s highest since it started reporting North America separately in 2000.

North American revenues also grew by 20 per cent as economic recovery in the US was encouraging demand for some of its high-end vehicles, including larger pickup trucks.

Sales in Europe of all carmakers fell nearly 10 per cent in March 2012, the 18th consecutive monthly decline.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.