Ford Turnaround Draws Billionaire’s Interest

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian plans an offer that would expand his stake in Ford Motor to 5.6 percent, saying he sees signs the turnaround plan is working.

DETROIT (AP) -- Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian plans to make an offer that would expand his stake in Ford Motor Co. to 5.6 percent, saying Monday he sees signs the automaker's turnaround plan is working.
Kerkorian's investment company, Tracinda Corp., said in a news release that it plans to offer $8.50 per share in cash for up to 20 million additional shares of Ford.
The offered price represents a 13.3 percent premium over Ford's closing price on Friday, and Ford shares rose more than 7 percent in premarket trading.
Tracinda said Ford's first-quarter results reinforced that the company is having success in its turnaround efforts, despite the difficult U.S. economy.
''Tracinda believes that Ford management under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally will continue to show significant improvements in its results going forward,'' Tracinda said in the statement.
Ford on Thursday announced it had turned a surprise profit of $100 million in the first quarter of this year, its first quarterly profit since the second quarter of 2007.
Following the positive news, Mulally reiterated his promise that the Dearborn company's restructuring will return Ford to black ink for 2009.
Tracinda already owns 100 million Ford shares, or 4.7 percent of the outstanding stock. If his latest offer is accepted, that stake will increase to 5.6 percent.
''We welcome confidence in Ford and the progress we are making on our transformation plan. Any investor can purchase Ford shares, which are sold on the open market,'' Mulally and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a joint statement. ''The Ford team remains focused on executing our plan to transform Ford into a lean global enterprise delivering profitable growth for all.''
Ford shares rose 53 cents, or 7.1 percent, to $8.03 in premarket trading.
The Ford offer is just the latest effort by Kerkorian, 90, to build a significant investment in a U.S.-based automotive company.
A year ago, Tracinda made an unsuccessful $4.5 billion cash offer for Chrysler, and in 2006 it dumped the last block of what once was a nearly 10 percent share of General Motors Corp.
He had pushed for an alliance between GM, Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA. GM's board voted to explore the possibility, but after three months of discussion, the idea was scrapped.
Tracinda also was Chrysler's largest shareholder at the time of its 1998 merger with DaimlerBenz. He sued the combined company in 2000, claiming Daimler-Benz engineered a takeover of Chrysler, then cheated him out of billions by casting the deal as a merger of equals. A federal judge rejected his claim.
Tracinda, which is named after Kerkorian's daughters, Tracy and Linda, has the majority stake in the casino and hotel operator MGM Mirage Inc.
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