The Associated Press May 23, 2012, 09:09AM ET

Ahead of the Bell: Ford Motor Co.

Shares of Ford Motor Co. rose slightly in premarket trading Wednesday, a day after the company won back its blue oval logo, factories and other assets that were pledged as collateral for a massive loan taken out last decade.

Moody's Investors Service raised Ford's debt ratings from junk to investment grade Tuesday for the first time in seven years. The upgrade means that all of Ford's U.S. assets are back in the company's hands and will no longer be used to secure its debt.

Ford needed investment-grade ratings from two of the three ratings agencies to get its assets back from a group of banks that held them. Fitch Ratings upgraded the company last month. Standard and Poor's has not yet upgraded Ford, and said in March that it didn't expect to change the company's ratings within the next year.

Ford shares rose 10 cents, or 1 percent, to $10.29 in premarket trading on Wednesday. Moody's announcement came just after the market closed on Tuesday.

Citi Investment Research analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a note to investors Tuesday that the upgrade was well-deserved. He has rated the stock a "Buy/High Risk" and has a one-year target price of $15.

Michaeli wrote that the investment grade rating gives Ford greater long-term financial and funding flexibility, especially for its auto loan business, Ford Motor Credit Co. It's also a vote of confidence in Ford's future performance and its ability to ride out future macroeconomic downturns.

"That an auto company can be upgraded to investment grade in today's choppy macro backdrop only supports our view that `new auto' fundamentals indeed have been established since the 2008-09 downturn," Michaeli wrote.

Moody's said it believes Ford can maintain its investment grade rating even in the face of a European downturn or other challenges. The company has approximately $20 billion in cash, and it has been disciplined about cutting costs, controlling production and lowering spending on incentives, Moody's said.

Ford never stopped using its logo or factories, but posted them as collateral in 2006 in order to get a $23.5 billion loan and avoid bankruptcy. Executive Chairman Bill Ford, the great grandson of company founder Henry Ford, said Tuesday that giving up the rights to the oval was "enormously emotional for me personally and for my family."


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