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Ford sells US$2.8b in auto debt to boost tech spending

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Investors piled into Ford Motor Co's first automotive borrowing in almost four years, allowing the company to slash interest rates on a US$2.8 billion(S$3.97 billion) debt sale as it boosts spending on self-driving cars, mobility services and electrified vehicles.

[NEW YORK] Investors piled into Ford Motor Co's first automotive borrowing in almost four years, allowing the company to slash interest rates on a US$2.8 billion(S$3.97 billion)debt sale as it boosts spending on self-driving cars, mobility services and electrified vehicles.

The automaker sold 10-year and 30-year notes Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Investors put in about US$8.7 billion of orders for the bonds, said a person familiar with the matter, letting Ford sell more than the US$2 billion it initially anticipated. Ford's last automotive issue was for US$2 billion in January 2013. The company said its auto business had US$13.1 billion in debt at the end of September and net cash of US$11.2 billion.

Ford has undertaken an expensive effort to transform itself into a mobility company that can take on upstarts such as Uber Technologies Inc and Google. The cost of that conversion is causing profits to fall this year and next. The second-largest US carmaker has promised to put 100,000 robot taxis - without steering wheel, gas or brake pedals - on the road in five years. It's also investing US$4.5 billion to convert 40 per cent of its lineup to electrified vehicles by 2020 and is offering bike sharing and a commuter van service in San Francisco.

"Ford is taking advantage of favorable market conditions to issue long-term debt to raise capital for general corporate purposes," Brad Carroll, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. "We continue to increase our investments in emerging opportunities, primarily in the areas of electrification, autonomy and mobility." Ford's US$1.3 billion of 5.29 per cent coupon 30-year bonds yield 2.2 percentage points more than Treasuries, Bloomberg data show. That's down from initial price talks of 2.4 percentage points, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. The company also sold US$1.5 billion of 4.35 per cent coupon 10-year notes.

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The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker is raising new cash as it looks at the changing landscape in transportation. Ford is working with cities around the world to come up with transportation solutions that go beyond selling cars to individual drivers and include vehicle sharing, ride hailing and other modes of mobility. The world's middle class will double over the next 15 years, as more people crowd into huge urban centers, which would create global gridlock if everyone is driving their own car.

"For us, the world is changing," Mark Fields, Ford's chief executive officer, said in an interview Friday. "The transportation that served us well in the last hundred years is not going to serve us very well in the next hundred years. So based on that, that's really forcing, really encouraging us to think differently about the business." Ford is a perennial issuer of debt for its Ford Motor Credit Co lending unit, which uses the proceeds to make car loans to consumers.

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