U.S. still faces a big breakeven hurdle on GM stock

November 4, 2010

Taxpayers will have to wait a while yet to get back the money invested to keep General Motors out of the scrap yard. The Detroit carmaker is running far more smoothly thanks to its stint in bankruptcy last year—it earned as much as $2.1 billion in the three months to September, its third straight quarter of profits, according to preliminary results. But the terms of GM’s upcoming share sale show that, once public, the stock will have to as much as double before its biggest shareholder, the U.S. government, gets close to breaking even.

Assume GM’s initial public offering launches at $26, the bottom of the projected price range on the deal. That would mean the U.S. Treasury, which today holds 61 percent of GM, would be taking a 42 percent loss on any stock it sells in the offering. It is planning to sell 263 million shares, or around 28 percent of its holdings. If it does, to get back into the black on its investment GM shares would need to more than double, to above $52 a share, according to a Reuters Breakingviews analysis.

The hurdle for GM’s aftermarket performance lowers, of course, if GM’s bankers can issue the shares at the top of the price range of $29. But if the underwriters sell more of the Treasury’s stock in the IPO, say through the green-shoe, the barrier to breaking even goes up. The calculation is similar for the GM stakes held by the Canadian and Ontario governments.

Overall, this sounds like a tall order. All things being equal, it implies that GM will have to essentially double its profits from current levels. But it could have been worse. Had the Treasury insisted on dumping more of its shares on the market, as appeared to be the case over the summer, the IPO price might have been lower and the need for a massive increase in GM’s value afterwards far greater.

The U.S. Treasury, whose GM efforts are being led by Ron Bloom, a senior adviser to Secretary Tim Geithner, changed its tune and focused less on getting out quickly and more on exiting with minimal damage to taxpayers’ interests. That’s a sensible volte-face, but it still leaves getting back in black a ways off.

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

This completely ignores the special rules the administration snuck through which give GM up to $45 Billion in tax benefits they were otherwise unable to use. It seems in a political game to look like they were going to break-even or come close to it, they gave up $45 Billion in tax revenue to get a few billion more in valuation for the company. I am sure they figured they would never include the forgone taxes that would have been collected when they calculated the net cost to the taxpayers.

This whole thing continues to stink of “Chicago style pay-to-play” politics with the administration taking from the average Joe taxpayer and giving it to the fat-cat unions that supported them in the election so they can hang on to their $100K a year jobs and not pay one dime for health care which caused this in the first place.

Posted by tapscp | Report as abusive

[…] Breakingviews reports that GM shares would need to race up above $50 to give the government a change on making money on its short-term dive into the auto […]

Posted by GM IPO: Oh, Canada — You Look Smarter than Uncle Sam – MarketBeat – WSJ | Report as abusive

[…] Bottom line, in order for taxpayers to get back to even, the shares the government owns would have to rise in value from about $18.3 billion to about $28.2 billion. In other words the shares would have to rise in price from about $33 to $51 on average. (For the record, not everybody agrees on this price. The Times says it’s $53. Reuters says it’s $52.) […]

Posted by GM IPO: Here’s the Taxpayer Math – MarketBeat – WSJ | Report as abusive