Having only recently reinstated its dividend, Ford (NYSE:F) could increase its payout to shareholders in the next year or two, CEO Alan Mulally told Seeking Alpha in an interview.
“That’s something that we’ll definitely consider based on the economic situation,…but clearly where we are in the growth cycle worldwide will be a primary consideration,” Mulally said. “It’s just another very important use of our cash.”
After a five-year hiatus, Ford said in December that it would pay a quarterly dividend of five cents a share. In the interview, Mulally said that the automaker could even repurchase stock.
“That’s always a consideration. Right now, we don’t have anything to announce about that, but we continue to look at the best way to manage our cash,” Mulally said. In addition to dividends, that includes de-risking Ford’s pension plan, and its heavy investment in its manufacturing and its vehicles.
Mulally’s aim is that those vehicles will be “best-in-class,” so he and the company’s senior management compare its autos with rival products on a daily basis.
“I drive the competitors’ vehicles every night, as does the entire leadership team at the Ford Motor Company,” he said. “Isn’t that fun?”
That team includes CFO Lewis Booth, who, according to reports last month, will retire in the first half. However, when asked about Booth’s possible departure, Mulally said there is “no new news to report on any of our team members at this time.” His own retirement has been the subject of speculation as well, although Mulally wouldn’t be drawn on his future either.
Ford’s CEO is seen as one of the company’s most important assets and is widely credited for its revival. In 2006, the year he joined, the firm made a net loss of $12.6B; last week, it reported a 2011 net profit of $20.2B, and said that pretax operating profit rose 6% to $8.8B while revenue increased 13% to $136.3B. It’s a turnaround that the company’s dealers have benefited from too.
“Their throughput is up, their profits are up, and the latest data from the dealers says that their franchises now are the most valuable they have ever been in the history of Ford,” Mulally said.
During the discussion, Mulally also spoke about the important factors in Ford’s turnaround and profitability, why the company is increasing its capital expenditure despite the uncertainty in the world economy, its debt, and its goals for the future.