DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. shares rose while Microsoft Corp. stock fell Wednesday morning on news that Ford CEO Alan Mulally won't leave the automaker to take lead the software giant.
Mulally said in an interview with The Associated Press late Tuesday that he will stay at Ford at least through the end of this year. He said he wanted to end speculation about his possible departure to replace Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ford shares rose 31 cents, or 2 percent, to $15.69 shortly after Wednesday's opening bell, while Microsoft stock fell 51 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $35.90.
Since late summer, there have been numerous reports that Mulally, 68, was in the running to succeed Ballmer at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, and he never completely denied them until Tuesday.
"I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally told the AP. "Am I leaving Ford? No."
Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund, in a note to investors Wednesday, maintained his "Buy" rating on Microsoft. He wrote that Mulally appeared to be the front-runner for the Microsoft job, but as the process dragged on, it appeared the board wanted someone with tech industry experience.
Sherlund wrote that several tech executives have declined the position, "so we are hopeful that the board has others who might both redirect the company, but also be shareholder friendly." He suspects there are "dark horse" candidates with more technical experience, including internal candidates.
Mulally's withdrawal further shrinks the pool of company outsiders who have been touted as Ballmer's potential successor.
Steve Mollenkopf, the chief operating officer of smartphone chip maker Qualcomm Inc., was identified as a top candidate in a Bloomberg News report last month. But Qualcomm quickly squelched the speculation by announcing plans to promote Mollenkopf to CEO in March.
With Mulally out of the running, some of Ballmer's top lieutenants might have a better chance of replacing their boss. The list of internal candidates includes Satya Nadella, who oversees the Microsoft's lucrative business of selling computer servers and online services to other companies and government agencies, and Tony Bates, who joined Microsoft in 2011 when the company paid $8.5 billion for video calling service Skype.