LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft shares fell 3 percent Thursday after Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that there is "no change in my plan" to stay with the automaker through the end of next year, dampening some investors' hopes he would take the top job at the software giant soon.
The stock's downturn came despite Mulally's comments on CNBC being no different than what Ford has been saying for months.
The market's reaction indicates investors were hoping the 68-year-old would in fact replace CEO Steve Ballmer, who is set to retire by August at the latest.
"It's clear that the market is hoping that Mulally is the lead candidate," said Morningstar analyst Norman Young.
Ford Motor Co. director Edsel Ford II, the company founder's great grandson, also told reporters at an event for the new Mustang in Dearborn, Mich., that Mulally is staying with the company through the end of 2014.
Ford spokesman Jay Cooney said in a statement that "nothing has changed from what we announced last November" when the automaker announced Mulally would stay on through 2014. Microsoft said it "does not comment on rumors/speculation."
Mulally is highly respected at Ford for saving the company from financial collapse. Shortly after he was hired away from Boeing Co. in 2006, he mortgaged all of Ford's assets for a huge loan. The $23.5 billion loan paid for a restructuring and helped keep Ford out of bankruptcy protection.
He has reportedly been a front-runner candidate for Microsoft's executive search committee, along with Satya Nadella, an executive who runs Microsoft's fast-growing cloud computing business. Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, business development executive Tony Bates and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner were also reportedly being considered.