Warning that it is still “too early” to declare a turnaround, Ford Chairman Bill Ford told shareholders the automaker is not yet ready to restore its dividend.
Nonetheless, Ford CEO Alan Mulally declared that the automaker will be “solidly profitable” this year, and that its recovery is occurring faster than anticipated, during the company’s annual shareholders meeting, in Wilmington, Delaware, today.
“It is very early days in our recovery,” declared William Clay Ford, Jr., explaining why the maker is not ready to restore its once-hefty payout to shareholders. But he added that a dividend “will be a topic for discussion…if we continue our progress.”
During their presentation to investors, the two executives painted a picture that could best be described as cautious optimism. While Ford is “clearly on a path now of profitably growing the business,” according to CEO Mulally, Chairman Ford stressed that, “We still have a lot of debt.”
Ford has been struggling to find ways to pay down that debt, including recent moves to convert some of it to equity.
But the maker has made strong progress on the balance sheet, reporting unexpectedly strong $2.1 billion first-quarter earnings, on top of the $2.7 billion profit from 2009.
On the sales side, the maker has gained 2.2 points of market share in 2010, with U.S. sales rising 32.3%, or nearly double the pace of the overall market.