2 min read.Updated: 09 Nov 2021, 06:08 PM ISTNina Trentmann, The Wall Street Journal
The move comes days after the auto maker said it would buy back higher-priced debt
Ford Motor Co. on Monday offered a $2.5 billion unsecured green bond to investors, a first for the car maker that comes days after it launched its sustainable-financing framework and said it would buy back higher-priced debt.
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford said it would allocate the proceeds from the bond offering, which has a 3.25% coupon and comes due in 2032, to fund investment in its growing battery electric vehicle portfolio, including the Mach-E, F-150 Lightning and E-Transit models. The company marketed the bond to existing as well as new investors.
Ford is following the example set by many other U.S. companies that have stepped up sales of green bonds this year. Corporate green bonds marketed in the U.S. have raised $58.6 billion in proceeds in 90 offerings so far this year, more than double the total from a year ago when green-bond issuance totaled $28.7 billion in the U.S., according to Refinitiv, a data provider. During the same period in 2019, green-bond issuance totaled $22.4 billion.
Ford’s bond sets a record for U.S. corporate green bonds, Refinitiv said, followed by a $2.0 billion green bond by Walmart Inc., which was issued in September.
Ford on Thursday said its sustainable-financing framework would serve as the basis for issuances of both secured and unsecured financing tools, including bonds tied to the company’s environmental, social and governance goals, like clean transportation and clean manufacturing. The auto manufacturer said it wants to be carbon neutral no later than 2050.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is…and directing capital to what’s good for the planet," Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said last week, adding that the proceeds from a green-bond sale could be tied to the company’s plans to spend $30 billion on electric vehicles by 2025. Ford declined to make Mr. Lawler available for an interview on Monday.
The company last week said it would repurchase up to $5 billion in higher-priced debt to reduce its interest costs, including securities with a 9% coupon due in April 2025 and those with a 9.625% coupon due in April 2030. The company in April 2020 sold $8 billion of bonds as a financial cushion as the coronavirus pandemic forced Ford’s factories to close temporarily and dented sales.
Ford also eliminated its dividend at the time. It said last month it would reinstate its dividend in the fourth quarter, pledging to distribute 10 cents a share as of Dec. 1.
“There is a lot of interest in green bonds, especially on the investor side," said Ivan Philip Feinseth, a senior partner at Tigress Financial Partners LLC, an investment bank. “Many companies are tapping into a market where there is a lot of demand."
Ford’s green bond fits with the company’s emphasis this year on debt financing tied to environmental goals and its transition to zero-emission vehicles, said David Whiston, an equity analyst at Morningstar Inc.’s research division.
Ford’s senior unsecured debt is rated Ba2 by Moody’s, which is two notches below investment-grade status. S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings each said they have assigned the green bond a BB+ rating, which is one notch below investment-grade status.