Ford CEO Alan Mulally can hear the investors clamoring.
He knows that one of the main questions by Ford shareholders is when the country's second largest automaker will restore the dividend.
So it's not surprising that one of the first things he said to me when we talked after Ford reported better than expected earnings in the third quarter was, "You're gonna ask me about the dividend aren't you?"
Yes, not only me, but analysts on Wall Street will as well. And to all of us, Mulally has one message: the dividend is coming. He just can't say when.
"I know how important it (the dividend) is to investors," Mulally told me. "We will pay a dividend sooner rather than later."
The dividend question is a good problem for Ford. It's a reflection of a balance sheet that has gone from highly leveraged four years ago, to becoming profitable and strong today. After earning a net income of $1.6 billion in the third quarter, Ford now sits on $31 billion in automotive liquidity and $20.8 billion in gross cash. Meanwhile it has just $12.7 billion in debt.
In other words, Ford is flush and investors want some of that money. But Mulally is conservative by nature. And as much as he wants to add a pay out to Ford investors, and is committed to making it happen, he's taking his time. As we ended our conversation I said to him, "You know, this is going to be the main focus on the earnings call today?". He chuckled as said, "Oh I know. We know how much people want to know about the dividend."
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