Ford expects $5 billion loss in current quarter due to coronavirus impact

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DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Tuesday its second-quarter loss will more than double to $5 billion from $2 billion in the first quarter due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but said despite the ongoing crisis it has enough money to last for the remainder of 2020.

FILE PHOTO: The Ford logo seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

“We believe the company’s cash is sufficient to take us through the end of the year, even with no additional vehicle wholesales or financing actions,” Chief Financial Officer Tim Stone said in a statement.

But he called the current economic environment “too ambiguous” for the No. 2 U.S. automaker to give a full-year 2020 earnings forecast.

The company has slashed costs during the COVID-19 outbreak to weather the shutdown, including cutting salaries of executives and white-collar employees.

Ford also moved to cut spending on projects, saying on Tuesday it was pushing back its commercial autonomous vehicle services by a year to 2022 and that it has decided to not develop a previously announced luxury electric Lincoln sport-utility vehicle in partnership with electric vehicle maker Rivian.

Ford shares were down about 6% in after-hours trading on Tuesday after closing the regular session at $5.38.

Ford’s market value of $20.6 billion is now less than the $35.1 billion in cash it had on hand as of April 24, an indication that investors expect the company to burn through significant amounts of cash before a recovery takes hold.

Ford had preannounced the pandemic-fueled first-quarter loss earlier this month. That warning came the same day the Dearborn, Michigan-based company raised $8 billion from corporate debt investors.

Last month, Ford moved to hoard cash on its balance sheet, drawing down $15.4 billion from two credit lines and suspending its dividend, in a move to bolster reserves to ride out damage to its business.

Virtually all U.S. automotive production ground to a halt in March as the number of COVID-19 infections grew rapidly. However, with President Donald Trump pushing for Americans to get back to work and several U.S. states beginning to reopen their economies, the focus in the auto sector has shifted to when production can be restarted.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Ford’s CFO, Stone, said the company would restart U.S. production “as soon as practicable” but did not give a timeline.

Ford’s captive finance arm posted $30 million in first-quarter pretax earnings, down $771 million versus the same period in 2019. This included $600 million in additional-loss reserves, plus higher depreciation of former lease vehicle sales and expected lease defaults – in preparation for the estimated future impact of the coronavirus on the finance unit’s performance.

Ford, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) are aiming to resume production some time in May, and are negotiating with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which represents their U.S. hourly workers, about how to safely resume vehicle production. FCA and GM are scheduled to report quarterly results on May 5 and 6, respectively.

Last week, the UAW said it was “too soon and too risky” to reopen auto plants in early May.

Ford, whose credit rating has been downgraded to “junk” status by Standard & Poor’s, had previously said it hoped to resume production in April at plants that make its most profitable vehicles but subsequently backed off those plans.

Ford said on Tuesday it will restart most of its European manufacturing starting on May 4. It has already resumed operations in China, where the pandemic began and where sales fell 35% in the first quarter. U.S. sales fell 12.5%.

Once North American production resumes, the question will be how fast U.S. demand bounces back.

Reporting by Ben Klayman and Nick Carey in Detroit; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Matthew Lewis

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