Things are looking green over at the Blue Oval. With the economy improving and a hot vehicle lineup in place, Ford executives shared their thoughts at the recent shareholders meeting, including the expectation of a solid profit for 2010.
"It's a slow, gradual recovery, especially in the United States, but very solid fundamentally," Ford CEO Alan Mulally said to reporters.
Ford sold 146,589 total vehicles in April, good for a 26.1-percent increase over last year's results. As usual, the F-Series truck lineup led the way with 40,946 sold, up 42.4 percent. Strong sales should further improve Ford's financial standing, especially after the Blue Oval stunned analysts by posting a $2.1 billion profit in the first quarter. Quarterly consistency will be crucial to paying down Ford’s oft-mentioned and oft-criticized debt load.
"It's very early days in our recovery ...," said Bill Ford Jr., Ford executive chairman. "The most important thing we can do as a company is to get our balance sheet strengthened and in order."
At time of writing, Ford stock was trading at $12.14 per share, a significant improvement from the end of 2008. Even with profits on the table, however, Ford execs reiterated it wasn't time to reinstate dividends just yet. The distributions were cut in 2006 as Ford restructured operations, including the acquisition of a $23 billion mortgage. The primary focus for the time being will be reducing debt, which currently sits at $31.3 billion.
"At some point in the future if we continue our progress, and we expect that we will, that will be a topic for discussions," Ford Jr. said of the dividends.
Ford produced a $2.7 billion profit in 2009 but recorded little consistency by quarter. Analysts are seeking six to eight consecutive quarters of solid profit before returning the automaker to investment grade.