Ford's not getting the love it deserves, according to Jefferies.
Ford Motor Co. (F) shares rose slightly on Tuesday, May 29, as Jefferies analysts say the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker is ahead of its global competitors in re-evaluating how it allocates capital.
"Ford is getting no credit for ambitious but credible cost targets and for [having] multiple operating and strategic levers still available to improve market and product exposure," Jefferies analysts, including Philippe Houchois, wrote in a May 29 research note.
The firm upgraded Ford stock to Buy and raised its price target by $1 to $14.
Shares of Ford rose 0.04% to $11.52 at 10 a.m. New York time even as the three major U.S. indexes were all lower in the morning trading session due to geopolitical concerns.
Ford management recently updated its longer-term outlook, targeting an 8% adjusted EBIT margin in 2020, two years earlier than previously anticipated. The accelerated 2020 targets are being driven by an $11.5 billion of cost and efficiency opportunities as well as a $5 billion cut in planned capital expenditures, bringing the expected Capex between 2019 and 2022 to $29 billion.
"The entire team is focused on improving the operational fitness of our business, as well as meeting and exceeding our accelerated 2020 target of 8% margin and [return on invested capital] in the high teens," Bob Shanks, the chief financial officer of Ford, said in a late April statement.
Original equipment manufacturers, such as Ford, "rarely fail on cost-cutting," Jefferies analysts said. "Still, consensus is only crediting Ford with minimal margin improvement," Houchois and his team said.
The Jefferies analysts estimate 7% adjusted margin in 2020, compared to the guidance of 8% and consensus of 6.1%.
Still, there is some risk to the scope of earnings from a change in consolidation, said Jefferies' Houchois, adding that the analyst team now expects 2019 and 2020 earnings per share of $1.81 and $2.09, respectively.
Ford is focused on trimming its product portfolio as its plans to do away with virtually all passenger cars and is doubling down on its most profitable segments, namely trucks and SUVs. The company has also been moving beyond the traditional auto business as it invests in autonomous vehicles and plans to deploy its autonomous vehicle fleet on a city-by-city basis in 2021.
Jefferies' upgrade comes less than two weeks after J.P. Morgan said it was time to buy Ford stock.
"We believe Ford management understands the previous deficit relative to the positioning of the investment story in comparison to General Motors (GM) and also that the story is now improved as a result of the recent announcements," J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brinkman wrote in a May 18 research note.
There are four Buys, 20 Holds and one Sell ratings on Ford shares, according to Bloomberg data.