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Ford puts its debt ahead of dividends

May 13, 2010 at 2:12 PM   |   Comments

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WILMINGTON, Del., May 13 (UPI) -- U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it was aiming to reduce its $34 billion debt before it would resume paying dividends to shareholders.

Ford suspended dividends in 2006, The Detroit News reported. But at its annual meeting in Wilmington, Del., Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said: "It's very early days in our recovery, and we still have a lot of debt. And I think the most important thing we can do as a company is to get our balance sheet strengthened and in order."

Ford also extended an invitation to Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally to stay on the job indefinitely.

"Sixty-five is the new 55," Ford said, a reference to Mulally's age, which is 64.

Mulally said the company needs "to accelerate the improvement of our balance sheet."

With Ford expecting to make a profit in 2010, "Shareholders have had pretty good news over the last year," Mulally said.

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