DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. (F) said Monday it expects 10,000 to 11,000 unionized hourly workers to accept early retirement and buyout offers by the end of the year.
The number of workers who accept buyouts is a closely watched indicator of the success of Ford's turnaround and cost-cutting efforts. The workers are represented by the United Auto Workers union.
Through June 1 about 4,900 workers, including employees at parts subsidiary Automotive Components Holdings, have accepted buyouts, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.
Ford is offering a range of buyout packages, including a $100,000 severance payment and a tuition reimbursement program.
The automaker has said it plans to close 14 plants by 2012 and cut up to 30,000 blue-collar jobs to turn around its money-losing North American unit.
Ford is offering the buyout and early retirement packages on a plant-by-plant basis based on approval by the local unions at the factories.
GM, which is also in the midst of a sweeping turnaround, has offered a package of buyouts ranging from $70,000 to $140,000 to more than 125,000 unionized factory workers in a bid to reduce costly benefits for an aging work force.
TRADERS EYE FORD CALLS
In the U.S. options market, the news prompted many investors to bet on more gains in Ford shares as they piled into calls, which give the right to buy the company at a predetermined price and time.
By late Monday, more than 21,000 calls and 4,200 puts changed hands in Ford, outstripping its average daily volume of 16,531 contracts, according to market research firm Track Data.
Increased volume was seen in the September and December 7.5 calls, contracts above Ford's stock price of $6.70 on the New York Stock Exchange.
"The bullish activity seems to be related to news that the company and General Motors, have made strides with buyouts and early retirement packages that might help ease the automaker's financial strains," said Frederic Ruffy, an analyst at Optionetics, a California-based options education firm.