Ford to retire $5 billion in high-interest debt, issue green bonds

Ford Motor Co (F.N) said it plans to retire up to $5 billion in high-interest debt and tap into the fast-growing market for “green” bonds to help it finance new electric vehicles and expand credit to customers with lower scores.

Ultimately, the automaker aims to regain an investment grade rating for itself and Ford Credit, its captive financing arm, which in turn would lower the cost of future borrowing.

In a media briefing, Treasurer Dave Webb said the company is making a cash tender for “covid bonds” at 8% to 9.5% interest that it issued in April 2020, at the start of the global pandemic.

Ford expects initially to offer a $1 billion green bond at 3.5% to 4% interest, to replace some of the high-coupon bonds and to supplement the zero-interest convertible debt it issued earlier this year.

Part of the money will help fund the automaker’s ambitious plan to convert a significant portion of its global production from fossil-fueled combustion engine vehicles to battery-powered electric vehicles.

The company has said it plans to spend at least $30 billion through 2025 to design, engineer and manufacture a broad range of EVs in North America, China and Europe.

Ford is a leading seller of full-size pickup trucks and SUVs — hugely profitable combustion engine vehicles that are still popular with U.S. customers.

A “sustainable financing framework” announced Thursday will provide Ford with access to new sources of capital, including investors supporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

New green bonds would enable Ford Credit to extend financing to customers with lower credit scores, but would require them to buy electric or hybrid vehicles.

Thursday’s announcement coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland and the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement.