Detroit - Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian has reduced his stake in Ford Motor Company to 4.89% over the past week, his investment company Tracinda Corp said on Tuesday.
Kerkorian, the largest outside investor in Ford, said last week that he had sold Ford shares worth about $18 million and might sell all of his remaining 6% stake in the number two US automaker.
Kerkorian's investment in Ford had been seen as a vote of confidence in the automaker and its turnaround strategy. Analysts say his pullback means Ford has lost a potential source of liquidity at a time when a deep downturn in US auto sales is accelerating its cash burn.
Ford shares have dropped 60% since June, when Kerkorian raised his stake to 6.5% and said he was willing to support the automaker's
turnaround with a capital injection.
Tracinda said on Tuesday it had sold 26.4 million Ford shares on the open market between Oct. 21 and Oct. 27 at an average price of $2.01 per share.
That leaves Kerkorian with a stake of less than 5%, relieving him of the requirement to report any change in his Ford holdings to the Securities and Exchanges Commission.
Kerkorian's pullout from Ford would be a costly retreat for the activist investor, who spent more than $1 billion for his stake in Ford, paying an average price per share near $7.10.
Through September, Ford's sales in the US market this year had dropped 17%. The automaker posted a loss of $8.7 billion for the second quarter and is expected to report a deep loss for the third quarter.