Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will resume paying a dividend in March, more than five years after it halted payments because of its financial problems.

The company's board approved a quarterly dividend of five cents per share. It will be paid on March 1 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 31.

"We have made tremendous progress in reducing debt and generating consistent positive earnings and cash flow," Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.

"The board believes it is important to share the benefits of our improved financial performance with our shareholders."

The company stopped paying a dividend in September 2006, when it was deeply in debt. The company lost $12.7 billion US that year.

But since then Ford has shed brands like Volvo and Mercury, closed factories, offered buyouts to thousands of employees and earned praise for new products like the Ford Explorer SUV and Ford Fiesta subcompact.

Ford reported its tenth straight profitable quarter in the third quarter of this year, and it earned $6.6 billion in 2010.