Ford Motor said Thursday it would buy back up to $5 billion of its high-yield junk bonds as it restructures its balance sheet to pay for vehicle electrification and other sustainable projects.
Ford shares rose 4.2% to $19.42 on news of the repurchase, which includes much of the $8 billion in bonds the company issued at the start of the coronavirus pandemic at lofty yields of between 8.5% and 9.625%.
“We think it’s the time to aggressively restructure the balance sheet, lower our interest costs, and really clear the decks for 2022 and beyond,” Ford Treasurer David Webb told reporters. “The actions that we’re taking here on the balance sheet further support that effort and intent. We think they, certainly, should be viewed as a credit positive.”
Ford’s credit rating has been below investment-grade status since March 2020.
The company also said it had introduced the auto industry’s first “sustainable financing framework” to further strengthen its balance sheet and financial flexibility, and return its credit rating to investment grade.
“Winning businesses are financially healthy and lead in sustainability – it’s not a choice, they rely on each other,” CFO John Lawler said in a news release. “We’re again putting our money where our mouth is, prioritizing and allocating capital to environmental and social initiatives that are good for people, good for the planet, and good for Ford.”
The objectives of the new framework include expanding electric vehicle technology and charging infrastructure to remove obstacles to adoption and improve the customer experience, and expanding EV and battery manufacturing to reduce emissions.
“It’s a shift for Ford, including its Ford Credit financial subsidiary, as environmental, social and governance, or ESG, investing becomes more popular and a consideration of investors,” CNBC reported.
Ford expects to fund the bond buyback with cash on hand, which totaled about $31 billion to end the third quarter. Webb declined to speculate on when the automaker expects to return to investment grade but said it is “intent on getting there as quickly as we possibly can.”