(Bloomberg) — Ford Motor Co. shares plunged by almost 10% Thursday — the biggest one-day drop since June — as analysts assailed the company for providing confusing guidance on how the global shortage of computer chips will affect its earnings.
The company posted first quarter adjusted earnings per share Wednesday that were four times better than Wall Street expected, but also warned semiconductor scarcity will cut planned second quarter production in half. Ford lowered its 2021 forecast for adjusted earnings before interest and taxes to a range of $5.5 billion to $6.5 billion — not much more than the $4.8 billion it made in the first quarter.
That caused consternation in the investment community, which had traded up Ford shares by more than 40% this year before Wednesday, impressed by new models such as the Bronco Sport and new Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley’s more aggressive electric vehicle strategy.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak called Ford’s profit forecast “confusing” in a research note. And Benchmark analyst Michael Ward wrote that Ford’s guidance “makes no sense.”
“Either the chip impact is much greater than the $2.5 billion estimate by the company or structural earnings, especially in North America, are much lower than previous assumptions,” Ward wrote in a note to investors issued before the market opened Thursday. “The math simply doesn’t add up and, in our view, Ford’s credibility will take a hit.”
Ford shares closed down 9.4% to $11.26 — the lowest since February 3 and largest drop since June 11.
Adding to the company’s woes, S&P Global Ratings said Thursday it will likely keep a negative outlook on Ford through the end of the year because the automaker’s earnings and cash flow will be weaker than expected. That puts Ford at greater risk of a ratings downgrade that would take it deeper into junk.
“The negative outlook on Ford reflects the at least one-in-three chance we will downgrade it” in the next 12 months, S&P wrote in its report, citing, among other factors, “the potential for significantly weaker cash flow in upcoming quarters stemming from its ongoing production shutdowns related to the semiconductor chip shortage.”
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