By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co <F. N> on Friday said it will host an analyst meeting next week, a surprise move that comes as the company prepares for the largest new model launch year in its history and faces mounting questions about Chief Executive Alan Mulally's future.
Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks will address analysts and reporters in New York. The second-largest U. S. automaker did not disclose what would be discussed at the year-end update.
Ford's board of directors met Thursday, but it was not immediately clear what was discussed. At Ford's annual holiday party Thursday evening, executives declined to comment.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said Ford may update its outlook for 2014, when Ford launches 23 new vehicles around the world, including redesigns of two of its most iconic models: the F-150 pickup truck and the Mustang sports car.
Ford is expected to earn $1.67 per share in 2013 and $1.83 in 2014, according to the average analyst estimate calculated by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
In a research note, Jonas said Ford may discuss pension strategy, returning cash to shareholders, the launch of the upcoming F-150, Ford's most profitable vehicle, or Mulally's plans.
Reuters reported this week that some directors are vexed by intensifying speculation that Mulally may be offered the top job at Microsoft Corp <MSFT. O> and want clarity.
"We are hopeful for a swift resolution to the drawn-out succession plans for Ford's CEO, especially as we'd like to avoid the topic stealing attention away from key model launches and other strategic initiatives," Jonas said. "However, we aren't holding our breath."
At an annual holiday party with executives and reporters Thursday evening, Mulally was jovial and recounted his first days at Ford in September 2006. But he sidestepped questions about his potential future at Microsoft.
"I love serving Ford," he said.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Nick Zieminski)