Ford Motor Co. stock rose Thursday as the auto maker earned points with Wall Street for being a bit more forthright with its 2019 goals though stopped short of issuing an official outlook.
late Wednesday reported a surprise fourth-quarter GAAP loss and revenue above expectations. On Thursday, shares were trading at their best in a little over a week and poised to snap a two-day losing streak.
The news release with the quarterly results was scant in details. In the conference call with analysts, Chief Executive Jim Hackett said the company would be sharing more specifics about its turnaround plan “in the coming months” but needed to make such announcements in a “coordinated way.”
As the call progressed, however, management “struck a more definitive and improved tone with its 4Q18 earnings,” analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note Thursday.
The company “may be operating with a greater sense of urgency this year and expect a series of announcements over the next 6-9 months” to help improve its business in underperforming regions and improve the core North America results, the Goldman analysts, led by David Tamberrino, said.
The company seems ready to unveil restructuring plans to retool its Europe and South America businesses, the analysts said. Goldman kept its buy rating on Ford.
“However, we still expect 2019 results to be choppy and flat-to-down from 2018” with a likely tough first half of the year mostly as “China headwinds continue to weigh before new product introduction.”
Analysts at Deutsche Bank said that investor frustration with “the perceived slow progress of Ford’s restructuring actions” remains high, but also zeroed in the hope more announcements are to come.
“Our view continues to be that Ford’s actions could generate large efficiencies that are underestimated by investors,” said the analysts, led by Emmanuel Rosner. Deutsche kept their rating on Ford stock at buy.
Ford repeatedly mentioned a recovery in the second half of the year, but the concern is whether its North American business can continue to perform well in the second half “while we wait for China/EU 2H recovery? Ford needs to thread the needle,” analysts at ISI Evercore said. The analysts, led by Chris McNally, kept their equivalent of a hold rating on Ford stock.
Analysts at BMO Capital Markets said that despite Ford’s tone, management offered no specific guidance for the year, and that leads them to keep the equivalent of hold rating on the stock.
“There is certainly significant value buried in Ford shares, though we are in no rush to buy them with market uncertainty still high (evidenced by management’s reluctance to provide specific guidance) and heavy lifting still required to remove barriers to better performance,” they said.
Ford shares have gained more than 12% in January, but are down 29% in the past 12 months. That compares with losses of 7% and 6.5% for the S&P 500 index
and the Dow Jones Industrial Average
in the last 12 months.