Posts tagged ‘General Motors’

General Motor’s Amazing Debt Trick

Now you see it, and now you don’t. General Motors claims that it has pulled off an amazing trick – the CEO of the troubled automaker, Ed Whitacre, claims in a recently released nationwide commercial, “We have repaid our government loan, in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule.” (See video BELOW):

Blushing Pinocchio

Even Pinocchio would blush after listening to those statements. The loan that GM is claiming victory over is roughly $7-8 billion in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) loans made from the U.S. and Canada. What Mr. Whitacre failed to acknowledge was how investors will be made whole on the whopping balance of around $45 billion.

How did GM miraculously pay off this debt? Whitacre would like taxpayers to believe booming sales or an operational turnaround has funded the debt repayment. Rather, these debt repayments were funded through other government TARP loans held in escrow with U.S. Treasury oversight. Effectively, GM has paid down one Mastercard (MA) bill with another Visa (V) credit card, and then gone on to brag about this financial shell game through a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. It’s bad enough that politicians and so-called media pundits attempt to “spin” facts into warped truths, but when a government-owned entity steps onto a national loudspeaker and spouts out blatantly distorted sound-bites, there should be consequences to these actions. American taxpayers deserve more honest accountability and transparency regarding their tax outlays rather than quarter truths.

GM’s Future

As Jedi Master Yoda’s famously quotes, “Uncertain, the future is,” and “Always in motion is the future.” GM is not out of the woods yet – the company lost $3.4 billion in the 4th quarter of 2009 alone and remains 70% government-owned. Nobody is certain how much (if any) of the $43 billion will be repaid by General Motors. For reference purposes, GM lost $88 billion from 2004 until 2009 when they declared bankruptcy  (see AP article)  If all goes according to plan, the former debt holders (now equity holders) and government stockholders will get a return on their capital infusions if and when GM does an equity offering to the public sometime later in 2010. If achieved, the company will have come full circle: public to bankrupt; bankrupt to private; and private to public.

While executives at GM are confident in their repayment capabilities, less convinced are certain branches of our federal government. Maybe these government agencies have taken note of the horrific train wreck occurring in the automotive industry over the last few decades (see GM Fatigue) Take for example the Office of Management and Budget, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) – they see TARP losses exceeding $100 billion, including about $30 billion from the auto companies…ouch.

The probability of success will no doubt hinge on some of the dramatic transformations made over the last year. First of all, GM has axed the number of brands in half (from eight to four), cutting Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab. Cutting costs is great, but chopping expenses to prosperity cannot last forever – at some point you need compelling products that will drive sales. The rubber will hit the road late this year when GM is scheduled to release the “Volt,” a plug-in hybrid, which the company is using as a launching pad for new products.

TARP on Right Track but Not to Finish Line

Given the heightened political sensitivity in Washington regarding the banks and Wall Street it’s not too surprising that many of the banks wanted to be out of the governments crosshairs and pay back TARP as soon as possible. Beyond political pressure, banks have accelerated TARP repayments in part due to the massively steep and profitable yield curve, along with signs of an improving economy. According to the Treasury Department less than $200 billion in bailout money is outstanding for what originally started out as a $700 billion fund ($36 billion of automaker bailouts is estimated as uncollectible). Even though there has been progress on TARP collections, unfortunately non-TARP losses associated with AIG, Fannie Mae (FNM), and Freddie Mac (FRE) are expected to add more than $150 billion in bleeding.

I don’t believe anyone is happy about the bailouts, although some are obviously more irate. Accountability and transparency are important bailout factors as taxpayers and investors look to recover capital contributions. The next trick GM and Ed Whitacre need to pull off is paying off tens of billions in taxpayer money with the benefit of sustained profits – now that’s a television commercial I want to see.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and in a security derived from an AIG subsidiary, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in General Motors, AIG, FNM, FRE, MA, V, or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

April 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm 6 comments

The China Vacuum, Sucking Up Assets

That's not Hoover making that sucking noise - it's China

That's not Hoover making that sucking noise - it's China

Shhh, if you listen hard enough you can hear a faint sucking sound coming from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. In the midst of the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, China is rolling around the globe sucking up international assets as if it were a Hoover vacuum cleaner. As a member of the current account and budget surplus club, China is enjoying the membership privileges. Evidence is apparent in several forms.

Most recently, Chinese state oil and gas company, Sinopec (China Petrochemical Corporation) has bid close to $7 billion for Addax Petroleum, an oil explorer with significant energy assets in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Another deal, newly announced not too long ago, occurred on our own soil when another Chinese company (Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co.) made a bid for the ailing Hummer unit of bankrupt General Motors. Just as we have begun exporting our obesity to China through McDonald’s and KFC, now we are sharing our lovely gas guzzling habits.

In May, The Wall Street Journal reported the following:

Chinese companies and banks have also agreed to a string of credit and oil supply deals worth more than US$40 billion with countries such as Brazil, Russia and Kazakhstan, in line with efforts to secure its energy supply.

 

Beyond the oil markets, China is also hungry for other hard assets. The failed $20 billion investment in Chinalco (Aluminum Corporation of China) by Rio Tinto garnered a lot of press. But other deals are making headlines too.  Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd. (MCC) is planning a $5.15 billion thermal coal project in Queensland state, Australia in conjunction with Waratah Coal Pty Ltd. China has a voracious appetite for coal -its coal imports are estimated to surpass 50 million tons in 2009.

Cash is king, especially in crises like we are experiencing now, however we want to be careful that we don’t give away the farm out of desperation. Making tough decisions to preserve assets, like cutting expenditures and expenses, is a better strategy versus making fire sale disposals of crown jewels.  Becoming energy independent and investing in environmentally sustaining technologies will serve our long term economic interests better as well.

 If we’re not careful, that active Chinese Hoover vacuum cleaner is going to come over to our home turf and suck up more than just our loose change.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper.  

www.Sidoxia.com 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, RTP and was short MCD, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in YUM, Sinopec (China Petrochemical Corporation), Addax Petroleum, Chinalco (Aluminum Corporation of China), Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd. (MCC),Waratah Coal Pty Ltd or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

July 17, 2009 at 4:05 am 5 comments

GM Fatigue Setting In

PJ005930

Yaaaawn. Sorry to be cold-hearted and insensitive, but I have to admit all this bankruptcy car talk is making me tired and fatigued. According to the Associated Press, General Motors is cutting 21,000 jobs in North America, about 34% of the total workforce – these cuts include pending dealership, plant, and warehouse closings. Twenty-one thousand certainly is not a minor number, but how do you think the other 6,000,000 Americans feel who have lost their jobs in this economic recession since the beginning of 2008?

GM share

Chart Source: The Economist

Don’t get me wrong, I like every other American do not want to see our historic industry vanish into thin air, but as the chart above shows, we have been witnessing this slow motion train wreck developing for decades. Detroit’s combined market share in 1980 was around 75%, and today that share amounts to less than 50%…ouch. Our auto industry needs to become more competitive, and to do so will require tough decisions like the ones being made today.

Does $65 billion in government bailout feel right? Definitely not, especially vis-a-vis the industry track record of government bailouts (i.e., 1980 Chrysler lifeline). History and current industry trends tell us that the odds of taxpayers earning any reasonable return off our bailout contributions will be extremely challenging to salvage.

Politics and votes always play a role when large numbers of jobs are impacted by government decisions, and this case has proved no different. On the flip side, nobody can say the automakers are not suffering tremendously from this bankruptcy solution. I truly believe the surviving entities will be much leaner and meaner to compete in this dog-eat-dog global economy. Sacrifices have been immense, but we’ll never know the true net economic effect had the administration not  bestowed the billions and billions upon this selective slice of industries.

Money goes where it is treated best, and I would have preferred seeing the capital naturally migrating to its most productive use. Perhaps the $65 billion could have provided 65,000 different companies access to $1,000,000 each in financing for creative, and innovative job creating purposes? Only time will tell if our billions in taxes were properly used, but in the mean time I’m going to turn off the CNBC car debate and take a nap. Zzzzzz….

June 16, 2009 at 5:30 am Leave a comment


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