Kerkorian starts offer to boost Ford stake

/ Source: The Associated Press

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian launched his previously announced $170 million cash offer to buy up to 20 million additional shares of Ford Motor Co. on Friday, calling it “an attractive investment.”

Kerkorian’s investment company Tracinda Corp. said the offer at $8.50 per share runs until June 9, unless it is extended.

Tracinda said it was making the offer “because it believes Ford is an attractive investment. It does not have a present intent to acquire or influence control over the business of Ford.”

If the full purchase is made, Tracinda would own 120 million shares of the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker’s common stock, or about 5.5 percent of outstanding shares.

Ford shares slipped 7 cents to $8.13 in late morning trading. The $8.50 price is a 13.3 percent premium over Ford’s closing price before Kerkorian announced the offer last month.

During the company’s annual meeting Thursday, Ford Chairman Bill Ford praised Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s leadership of the company and said they “welcome Tracinda and thank them for their confidence in our plan.”

Mulally and Ford leaders have been working to return Ford to profitability by 2009 and have been encouraged by the company’s surprise $100 million profit during the first quarter of this year following losses of $2.7 billion for 2007.

Kerkorian’s interest in the company has touched off speculation on how he might try to influence the automaker.

The 90-year-old casino mogul rarely has acted passively as a major shareholder. He attempted to take over Chrysler during the 1990s and invested heavily in General Motors Corp. in 2006 in an attempt to foster an alignment with Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA.

Kerkorian’s top deputy, former Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Jerry York, recently said Ford should sell its Mercury and Volvo brands, a move that quickly was dismissed by Ford officials. Ford sold its Aston Martin, Land Rover and Jaguar brands, but has said it plans to keep Volvo and work on making the unit more profitable.