Ford Motor Company (F): This Company’s Stock, One Serious Problem

Cancer is deadly for many different reasons. For one, it often lies undetected, while causing bodily harm for a lengthy amount of time. Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has a similar problem, one that doesn’t fully show up on the balance sheet or financials and often goes unknown among investors: an underfunded pension.

Ford Motor CompanyIt’s important that investors are aware of this issue, and since the underfunded pension can be a little complicated, I’ll explain it step by step, tell you how it could be turned into a positive, and what Ford’s plan to tackle the problem is.

Grasping the size
To give you a sense of how large the underfunded pension issue is, since it doesn’t fully show up as a number on the financial sheets, I’ll compare it to automotive debt, as both are obligations due from the company.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s roughly $86 billion in total debt is misleading, because that includes the financial division, where it takes on huge loans at low interest rates and dishes the money out to consumers for financing. The profit in this sector nearly offsets Ford’s losses in Europe. So if you take out the financial division, which adds approximately $72 billion of debt to the books, you find that Ford’s real automotive debt sits at about $14 billion. Remember that number.

In contrast, it’s estimated that Ford’s pension is underfunded by about $18.7 billion. That’s more than its automotive debt, and it’s only about $6 billion shy of the massive $23.4 billion private loan it took out (and eventually paid back) before the recession hit. Ford put up its legendary Blue Oval as collateral on that loan. It’s a big number.

Now, don’t panic, Let’s look at why this pension number is so large, how it will change going forward, and what Ford is doing about it.

What inflates the number
Low interest rates are supposed to be a good thing. They certainly allowed Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) to borrow money cheaply and use it to offer discounts to help sell cars or other company interests. But these rock-bottom rates also inflate the underfunded pension number, because they cause Ford to lower its discount rate, which essentially defines how large pension requirements need to be. Ford had to lower its rate from 4.6% to 3.84%, appearing to wipe out any progress it made on paying into the pension funds over the past year.

But hang in there, There is good news, too!

From debt to surplus
Let’s say that in eight years, the housing market has steadily improved, the automotive market has been healthy, the economy is more stable than ever, and politicians are working together in harmony. Well, OK, scratch the part about the politicians. Anyway, imagine, too, that interest rates have risen for the past few years and the discount rates have followed. This hypothetical situation would significantly change the look of Ford’s underfunded pension. It would narrow the gap, and it’s possible that if Ford had been diligent in paying into the fund, the company could actually be looking at a pension surplus! This is a real possibility, and can you imagine how the stock price would react if it happened?

Bottom line
Back here in the real world, interest rates are likely to be low for at least two years, so what is Ford doing now to fix this issue? In 2012 it paid $3.4 billion into the fund. It’s been executing a plan to offer buyouts to salaried workers, which knocked off about $1.2 billion in obligations. And it’s committed to putting $5 billion into the fund this year, with plans to have a fully funded pension by mid-decade.

If Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) handles this underfunded pension just as it dealt with its pre-recession loan — which, again, is now paid off — this goal is certainly achievable. If discount rates rise, even a surplus is possible. Either way, the issue should be much easier to deal with in the future. I’m bullish on the automotive industry and its companies, and I’m especially bullish on Ford.

The article Ford’s Stock: One Serious Problem originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford.

Copyright © 1995 – 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Insider Monkey Headlines
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy
Insider Monkey Small Cap Strategy

Insider Monkey beat the market by 52 percentage points in 24 months Click to see monthly returns in table format!

Lists

10 Best States To Practice Medicine

The 10 Best States to Have a Business

The 12 Most Expensive Apple (AAPL) Apps in the Market

The 10 Richest Billionaires in the World

10 Biggest Kickstarter Failures

The 10 Best Places to Work At

The Top 10 of Google Inc (GOOGL)’s Most Expensive Acquisitions

13 Best Cities to Visit in South America

10 Most Expensive Works of Art of All Time

The 10 Richest Banks in the World

The 10 Best-Paying Jobs in America (2014)

7 Most Expensive Foods in the World

The World’s Top 10 Earning Authors

Five Wicked and Very Expensive Items (and Other “Stuff”) Sold on eBay

10 Biggest Celebrity Bankruptcies

The Top 10 Highest Paid CEOs in 2014

The 10 Most Expensive Real Estate Cities in America

10 Most Expensive States To Live In America

The 10 Best Airlines in the World

The 10 Best-Selling Cars in 2014

The 10 Best Industries to Invest In

The 10 Most Expensive States to Own a Car In

Top 10 Business Schools in US: 2014 Rankings

Top 20 Female Billionaires in 2014

6 Movies That You Should Watch to Better Understand The Cold War

Top 15 Best Paying Jobs for Women in 2014

Top 6 Things Rich People Do Differently Every Day

5 Retirement Mistakes To Avoid (and Einstein’s Famous Quote)

11 Smartest People in the World

6 Films About the Financial World You Need To Watch (While “The Wolf” is Not Around)

Warren Buffett and Billionaires Are Crazy About These 7 Stocks

The Top 10 States With Fastest Internet Speeds

10 Best Places to Visit in USA in August

Top 10 Cities to Visit Before You Die

Top 10 Genetically Modified Food In the US

15 Highest Grossing Movies Opening Weekend

5 Best Poker Books For Beginners

10 Strategies Hedge Funds Use to Make Huge Returns

Top 10 Fast Food Franchises to Buy

10 Best Places to Visit in Canada

Best Summer Jobs for Teachers

10 Youngest Hedge Fund Billionaires

Top 10 One Hit Wonders of the 90s

Fastest Growing Cities In America

Top 10 U.S. Cities for Freelancers

Top 9 Most Popular Free iPhone Apps

Top 10 Least Expensive Private Business Schools in the US

Top 15 Most Expensive Countries in the World – 2014

Top 6 Tax Scams and How to Protect Yourself

Top Businesses to Invest In

Subscribe

Enter your email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

X

Thanks! An email with instructions is sent to !

Your email already exists in our database. Click here to go to your subscriptions

Insider Monkey returned 47.6% in its first year! Wondering How?

Download a complete edition of our newsletter for free!