Ford may need to access US government aid in late 2009, an analyst as said, just days after the company said in its Q4 results statement it would have enough cash to survive without a state bailout.

Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson has downgraded the automaker’s stock to “underweight” from “equal-weight” and cut his price target on the stock to US$1 from $4, citing cash concerns and an increase in the company’s net debt, Reuters reported.

He also forecast a fourth-quarter loss for General Motors and cut his price target on that stock – which he rated “underweight” – to 50 cents from $1.

The analyst reportedly expected GM’s fourth-quarter results to reflect continued weak demand in North America but said he was more concerned about the quick deterioration in international markets.

He said Ford’s results last week were a reflection of just how quickly non-US markets have deteriorated and noted that the company had reported an international automotive operating loss of $1.1bn compared with his estimate of a $0.3bn profit, Reuters added.

The analyst estimated GM’s automotive loss at $4.3bn and expectedd the struggling automaker to burn through $3.1bn as production was down significantly across all regions in the fourth quarter.

He expected GM to post a loss of $6.18 a share in the quarter while, according to Reuters Estimates, analysts on average expected a loss of $7.18 a share.

“With international segments no longer offsetting North America losses, we expect investor focus to remain on GM’s cash levels and how the company expects to minimise future cash burn,” Johnson was quoted as saying.

Ford last week reported a record $14.6bn full-year loss after burning through $21bn during the year but said it would be able to better conserve cash in 2009 if US sales stabilised in the second half as it expects, Reuters noted. Johnson reportedly said Ford could also relieve some of the stress on its cash balance by renegotiating its United Auto Workers (UAW) wage/benefits and Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) contributions along the lines of GM’s plan, even without obtaining government loans.

“While this would benefit Ford as an enterprise, in terms of equity holders, providing stock in lieu of cash or debt to the VEBA trust would create significant dilution with about half of Ford’s equity being ceded to the VEBA trust,” he wrote in a note to clients.