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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Ford's balance sheet still needs work, Bill Ford says

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Ford's balance sheet still needs work, Bill Ford says

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

DECEMBER 18, 2009 - 2:00 PM ET

DETROIT (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. has a "really good plan" to restructure its debt-heavy balance sheet and will spend more time in 2010 to address the issue, Executive Chairman Bill Ford said.

Ford Motor, the only Detroit 3 automaker to avoid bankruptcy this year, still faces pressure to restructure and reduce its long-term debt. The company borrowed more than $23 billion in late 2006 to finance its turnaround.

"Our balance sheet strategy is something we spent a lot of time on, and we will be spending even more time on," Bill Ford told reporters on the sidelines of an event at an assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. "We have a really good plan to address all the balance sheet issues," he said.

Bill Ford also said the No. 2 U.S. automaker does not expect a change in its relationship with the UAW after Bob King, the union's vice president in charge of negotiations with Ford, was named this week as the likely candidate to succeed current President Ron Gettelfinger next year.

"I've known Bob King for a long time. He cares very deeply about the industry and about Ford. He has a different style than Ron, clearly, but I don't anticipate huge changes," Bill Ford said.

"Ron is very plain-spoken, and he gets to the point very quickly. Bob is perhaps, more cerebral, in some senses."

Accept and reject

Ford Motor's some 41,000 hourly workers agreed to concessions in February that would save the automaker about $500 million in annual labor costs. In November, workers rejected additional concessions negotiated between Ford and the UAW leadership.

"I would have liked to see that happen,” Bill Ford said. “But we've got a whole lot done in the last three years, so this was not the end of the world and we're working very hard to maintain that relationship."

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