The price-book ratio of Ford’s (NYSE:F) stock is now about 1.0, significantly lower than its five-year average of 2.5, suggesting that Ford stock could be headed lower.
The question on the mind of every owner of Ford stock. however, is whether this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of the slump of F stock.
Let’s examine the likelihood of both scenarios.
The Beginning of the End
The collapse of Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) has been years in the making. Today it has declared bankruptcy, something most people saw coming years ago.
Ford’s situation is distinctly different.
It’s hard to go bankrupt when you have $11 billion of free cash flow and $7.2 billion of net income as of the end of 2017.
Yielding 6.8% at the moment, Ford stock has the fifth-highest yield in the S&P 500. If you’re an income investor, it’s pretty hard to ignore such an attractive return.
The dividend itself should help keep a floor under the Ford stock price. Until Ford demonstrates cash flow issues, Ford stock price is unlikely to fall below $8. That doesn’t mean, however, that the owners of Ford stock shouldn’t be concerned about its future.
The tariff war with China has already cost Ford $1 billion of profits. To counter those losses, Ford is reported to be considering cutting 12% of its global workforce, representing 24,000 jobs.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett knows a thing or two about cutting jobs. He eliminated more than 12,000 positions when he was the CEO of Steelcase (NYSE:SCS). Since Hackett left the furniture manufacturer in February 2014, Steelcase’s stock has increased by just 12%, 35 percentage points worse than the S&P 500.
While the man knows how to cut jobs, it’s uncertain whether he’ll do anything to boost the price of Ford stock.
Ford produces 33 vehicles per employee, 38% fewer than General Motors (NYSE:GM). Sales of its F-Series tricks, which generates most of the company’s profits, fell in September, a sign that its biggest moneymaker could be entering a permanent slowdown.
Ford’s $26 billion reorganization is shrouded in mystery, leaving analysts very pessimistic about Ford stock.
Is this the beginning of the end? I don’t think so. But I also don’t believe that Jim Hackett is the right guy for the job.
Right now, Ford needs someone who can innovate their way out of a real mess, like GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.
The End of the Beginning
I’ll be honest, I’ve been negative on Ford stock since early 2017. Generating a ton of free cash flow, it should have been repurchasing its stock in record numbers. Instead, its share count has barely budged.
Now it’s undertaking a significant restructuring initiative and asking investors to trust it. The problem is that it’s going to be 24-36 months before we know whether any of the company’s efforts have paid off. That’s too long to wait.
If Ford and Jim Hackett are so sure that the restructuring initiative is going to work, wouldn’t it make sense to buy back F stock to demonstrate confidence in the plan?
But enough of my negative slant.
InvestorPlace’s James Brumley sees Ford’s situation in a much brighter light. He feels there is a lot of innovation taking place at stodgy old Ford, which investors are failing to recognize.
“In October of last year, Ford acquired a company that makes laser-based radar systems, called Lightwave, to bolster its previous investment in autonomous driving technology developer Argo. Called LIDAR, these technologies are seen by some industry experts as the key to making autonomous cars not just functional, but also safe,” Brumley wrote in an article published on October 2. “These systems can send, receive, and process important data at the speed of light, not only making response times faster, but allowing self-driving cars to process massive amounts of relevant data,” added Brumley.
Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ford stock after all.
The Bottom Line on Ford Stock
With stock markets in turmoil at the moment, it’s impossible to say with certainty that the Ford stock price won’t drop below $8 shortly.
That said, as much as I’m a cynic about Ford’s future, it’s probably closer to rebounding than falling further into the abyss.
If you buy Ford stock, however, you’re going to need an abundance of patience because Ford stock is not a good way to get rich quickly.
As of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.