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With 2nd Debt Upgrade Ford Regains Control of Blue Oval Logo

Maker regains control of logo, brands and factories.

by on May.23, 2012

Back from the pawnbrokers: Ford regains control of the Blue Oval logo and other key assets.

Ford is out of hock, so to speak.  With Moody’s Investor’s Services upgrading the maker’s debt to “investment grade,” the second-largest automaker has done more than just fulfill the key goal of CEO Alan Mulally.  It regains control of assets that include its factories, brand names and trademarks and the familiar Blue Oval logo.

While Ford continued to use them it put those and other assets up as collateral in 2006 to secure $23.5 billion in credit.  That move, approved shortly after Mulally joined Ford from Boeing, where he had been a senior executive, helped the maker avoid the bankruptcy that nearly crushed its cross-town rivals General Motors and Chrysler.

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“The key factor in our considering an investment grade rating for Ford was whether or not the company would be able to sustain its strong performance,” said Moody’s senior vice president Bruce Clark. “We concluded that the improvements Ford has made are likely to be lasting.”


Junk No More, Ford Regains Its Investment Grade Rating

Fitch moves, but will S&P and Moody’s follow?

by on Apr.24, 2012

Ford CEO Alan Mulally gets one of his wishes fulfilled.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally has reason to celebrate after achieving one of the top goals he set after joining the Detroit automaker more than five years ago; Fitch Ratings boosting the maker’s debt to investment grade status.

Though several other key ratings agencies have yet to weigh in, the move by Fitch signals growing confidence that Ford’s turnaround is sustainable – and helps the maker maintain momentum by, among other things, reducing its debt costs.  It is also expected to boost Ford’s standing in the stock market, the upgrade quickly triggering a sharp jump in Ford’s share price.

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“We are very pleased with today’s decision by Fitch,” said Bob Shanks, Ford’s Chief Financial Officer.  “It is an important proof point of the continued progress the Ford team is making with our One Ford plan.  Moving forward, we will continue to focus on driving profitable growth for all of our stakeholders. In fact, our One Ford plan includes achieving strong investment grade ratings and maintaining investment grade throughout an economic cycle.”


Ford Says “Ni Hao” to Chinese Financing

Maker aims to bolster lagging Chinese operations – while lowering U.S. costs.

by on Mar.16, 2012

CEO Mulally turns to China for financial assistance.

Ford Motor Co. is trying something new to bolster operations in China. To help support the company’s strategy in China, Ford has announced it’s selling renminbi (RMB)-denominated bonds for the first time. The issue was aimed at investors in Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere outside the United States, with total proceeds of $158 million.

“We are pleased with this transaction and appreciate the actions taken by regulators in China that have opened the RMB capital markets for global issuers like Ford,” said Neil Schloss, Ford vice president and treasurer. “This offering was an opportunity for Ford to fund business operations in China while expanding our global investor base.”

Ford was late to the Chinese market, especially when compared to key competitors such as General Motors and Volkswagen, which now dominate that booming market.  Its challenge is to establish a niche in the market – with the maker putting an emphasis on regions of China just beginning to share the economic boom first seen along the Pacific Coast.


Meanwhile, Ford has succeeded in negotiating a new line of credit in the U.S. on what it says are more favorable terms. Ford went heavily into debt as the recent economic downturn began – a savvy move in hindsight considering what happened to its cash-starved Detroit rivals. But it is now trying to improve its balance sheet without the benefits that GM and Chrysler got through bankruptcy.


Ford’s Earnings: A Closer Look

Gains in North America run headlong into problems abroad, higher commodity prices.

by on Jan.27, 2012

Ford officials won't predict whether they can continue gaining share -- and raising prices -- even with the launch of key new products like the 2013 Ford Fusion.

Sometimes it can be difficult to please Wall Street.  As trading for the week neared its close the automaker’s shares were on track to drop about a half dollar as trader’s lamented the sort of figures that they might have only fantasized about during the depths of the Great Recession.  The maker reported a full-year pre-tax operating profit of $8.8 billion, or $1.51 a share, an increase of $463 million over 2010.

But what didn’t sit so well is that Ford still fell about a nickel a share short of early estimates, and more worrisome, total automotive pre-tax operating profits for the fourth quarter dipped to $586 million, a decrease of $155 million from the fourth quarter of 2010.

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What’s behind it all?  Analysts and company officials seem to agree on key factors including

  • Losses in both Europe and Asia Pacific;
  • Declining profits in the otherwise strong South American market;
  • Flooding in Thailand, in particular, hurt the maker in a number of regions; and
  • Commodity prices soared by about $100 million more than Ford initially planned for.


Ford Gets Another Upgrade

GM also gets a boost in its credit rating.

by on Oct.28, 2011

Ford boss Alan Mulally may soon get his wish for an investment grade credit rating.

Ford Motor Co. is a small step away from achieving one of CEO Alan Mulally’s key goals after the maker received another upgrade in its debt rating from Moody’s Investors Service – the agency also giving an upgrade to industry giant General Motors Corp.

Both makers are now rated at “Ba1,” which is for Mulally one step from seeing Ford regain the investment grade rating it lost in 2005 as its finances began to implode.  Getting the next upgrade would provide a halo for Ford’s stock, which has taken some sharp blows over recent months – but it would also reduce the maker’s borrowing costs substantially.

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The upgrade by Moody’s follows similar actions by its rivals Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, earlier this month.  All three ratings agencies cited the improved financials for both Ford and GM, as well as the latest contracts the makers have negotiated with the United Auto Workers Union.


Debt Rating on the Rise, Will Ford Restore Dividend?

Maker gets vote of confidence with Fitch credit upgrade.

by on Oct.21, 2011

After an initial bump look for Ford's labor costs to come down, says President Mark Fields.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised to reflect a subsequent upgrade in Ford’s credit rating by S&P, the agency removing Ford from its CreditWatch.

With a key debt rating agency giving it the thumbs-up – and further hikes anticipated – Ford Motor Co. is signaling it may soon restore its dividend, a move that could, in turn, help revive the maker’s flagging stock price.

With Ford now indicating its new contract with the United Auto Workers Union will actually lower its labor costs, Fitch Ratings bumped the carmaker’s credit rating up a notch to “BB+” on Thursday, S&P taking the same step on Friday while also removing Ford from its CreditWatch.  Those upgrades fall just one step short of reaching the investment grade targeted by Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

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In the past, it had been expected that Ford would wait until getting that investment grade status before restoring the dividend but, during a meeting with investors, Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth indicated the additional upgrade, “is not an absolute necessity to pay dividends.”

If anything, analysts say such a move would pay big dividends for Ford.  The quarterly payout is a requirement in some investment communities, such as insurance companies and government pension plans, according to Joe Phillippi, chief analyst with AutoTrends Consulting.


New Settlement Will Increase Ford’s Competitiveness – Yield New Jobs and Investments

Maker hoping it will also trigger a credit rating hike.

by on Oct.04, 2011

The new UAW contract should result in Ford's maintaining the AutoAlliance plant in suburban Detroit which now builds the Ford Mustang and Mazda6. Mazda plans to abandon the plant.

Ford Motor Co. will increase by $16 billion its investment in North America while adding 12,000 new jobs, the maker announced as it confirmed reaching a tentative new contract with the United Auto Workers Union.

While declining to release specific details of the settlement, which was reached in the wee hours of the morning after more than two months of bargaining – and nearly three weeks after the union reached an agreement with General Motors – Ford officials stressed that the new contract will “improve our overall competitiveness.”

Ford is also hoping that, much like the GM agreement, the new contract will be received well by credit rating agencies.  Ford CEO Alan Mulally has made it a top priority to return to investment grade.  S&P last week indicated it would consider an upgrade if the Ford contract appeared similar in its advantages to the settlement won by GM.

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“We believe this agreement,” said Ford EVP John Fleming, “will enable us to increase our overall competitiveness in the United States,” something he underscored by noting the 4-year contract, if ratified, “will also permit us to insource work from Mexico, China, Japan and other parts of the world.”


Are Ford and UAW Ready to Announce a Deal?

Senior union leaders summoned to Detroit Tuesday morning.

by on Oct.03, 2011

UAW Pres. Bob King shakes hands with Ford Chairman Bill Ford as negotiations open in July.

Are Ford and the United Auto Workers Union ready to announce a deal on a new 4-year contract?

There are certainly signs that an agreement is at hand, the UAW calling senior local leaders to Detroit for a Tuesday morning meeting that sources indicate will be used to discuss a tentative agreement.  The likely settlement is expected to at least match the gains both General Motors and the union each claimed in the settlement they reached last month – though Ford is also expected to provide a slightly larger bonus to its hourly employees.

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Negotiations, meanwhile, continue at Chrysler, though there are indications the two sides have hit some significant stumbling blocks over issues that include a desired up-front “signing bonus,” as well as an increase in wages for second-tier hourly employees currently earning just half of what veteran Chrysler employees get.