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Ford to Retain 1,000 French Jobs

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Ford Motor Co. (F) has promised to retain 1,000 jobs at the Blanquefort plant near Bordeaux in southwest France after reaching an agreement with local authorities for joint investment at the plant.

Under the agreement, Ford will invest €125 million ($162 million), about ten times, of what local authorities will invest at the plant to produce a next-generation gearbox for compact cars in Europe. With this, the jobs will be saved at the plant for five years.

The Blanquefort plant is a very old plant of Ford, dating back to 1970s, employing as many as 3,000 workers. At that time, the plant used to produce components for old Ford-model cars in the U.S.

However, situations deteriorated as the old models were scrapped. Consequently, Ford had to sell the plant in 2009 to a German investment company HZ Holding but repurchased it in 2011 after HZ Holding’s industrial partner pulled out.

Currently, the plant employs about 1,200 workers, but only 300 of them are actively employed. The rest of the workers just receive a paycheck without doing any work.

Recently, Ford announced plans to shut down its entire Australian operations in Oct 2016 due to ebbing sales and continued appreciation of the domestic currency. The automaker will close two plants in Victoria State – an engine plant in Geelong and a vehicle assembly plant in Broadmeadows. The closures would terminate 1,200 jobs at the plants.

According to Ford Australia President Bob Graziano, Ford lost A$600 million ($581 million) in the last five years in the country and A$141 million ($136.5 million) in 2012 because customers preferred smaller and cheaper imported vehicles manufactured by Japan’s Mazda Motor or South Korea’s Hyundai Motor.

Ford, a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock, posted an increase of 4.1% in earnings to $1.6 billion and 5.1% in earnings per share to 41 cents in the first quarter of 2013, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 3 cents. Revenues improved 10.5% to $35.8 billion, exceeding the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $32.8 billion.

The improvement in revenues and earnings was mainly attributable to Ford’s strong performance in North America and Asia Pacific Africa. The company’s results were disappointing in South America due to unfavorable exchange rate as well as in Europe due to the sluggish economy.

Few stocks that are performing well in the industry include Visteon Corp. (VC), STRATTEC Security Corp (STRT) and Tower International Inc. (TOWR). They carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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