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Ford Debt Payment Ends Stock Slide

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Ford's (F - Get Report) move Wednesday to reduce debt seemed to halt a recent decline in the automaker's share price.

Ford said it would reduce its debt by $4 billion by paying $3.8 billion in cash to the United Auto Workers retiree medical benefits trust, not only making scheduled debt payments but also paying off the remaining balance on an outstanding note. Additionally, the company will pay $255 million of previously deferred quarterly distributions on 6.5% cumulative trust preferred debt.

Ford

In mid-morning trading, Ford stock was up 47 cents to $10.35. The stock had dropped nine of the preceding 10 days. After starting the year at $10.17, Ford shares reached a 2010 high of $14.21 in mid-April. In 2009, Ford stock rose 335%.

"Our One Ford plan to profitably grow our business is working and we are increasingly confident about the future," said CEO Alan Mulally in a prepared statement. "We expect to continue to improve our balance sheet as we deliver on our plan. Importantly, our business results make it possible to take these actions while still accelerating the investments we are making in our business to serve our customers with the very best cars and trucks."

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Specifically, Ford is making scheduled cash payments of about $860 million on notes held by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, including about $250 million due under Note A and $610 million due under Note B, which it had the option to pay with cash or stock.

In combination with a $3 billion debt payment in April, the payments announced Wednesday mean that Ford's debt will decline to $27 billion, down from $34 billion at the end of the first quarter. The total reduction will save the company more than $470 million in annual interest expense.

In 2009, Ford announced debt transactions that reduced its obligations by $10.1 billion. Additionally, since the second quarter of 2009, Ford has raised more than $5.7 billion through several equity and equity-linked offerings.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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