Unstructured Finance

Eastbound Traffic

Was there ever any doubt that China, having donned the overalls of the world’s manufacturer, would ultimately emerge as a top bidder in the race for sputtering global auto assets? Not only does the country have the labor force to build the automobile of tomorrow, but increasingly it has the consumer class to buy it.

So it would seem natural for Swedish luxury sports car maker Koenigsegg to tie up with China’s BAIC to help finance its purchase of Saab from General Motors. And news that the parent of China’s Geely Automotive wants to bid for Ford’s Swedish brand, Volvo, is as much a confirmation of a trend as it is evidence of a tectonic shift in the industry.

Like its neighbors Japan and South Korea before it, China has the tools to revitalize the auto industry by applying its low-cost muscle. The trick will be to nurture these imported brands and their technological expertise so they can survive the transition. China has never been known as a paradigm of consumer safety – at least not in a way befitting Volvo.

Japan and South Korea were able to grow their own intellectual capital in the auto industry. But perhaps what the struggling industry needs now, rather than innovation and cutting-edge research, is simply a place with both a production and a consumer base in which to ply its trade.

Deals du Jour

Bharti Airtel will not sweeten its offer for MTN now that exclusive talks between the two have been extended. Instead, the talks are about administrative issues, permissions and a scheme of arrangements, Bharti Chairman Sunil Mittal told the Economic Times. And the fate of Opel hangs in the balance, with General Motors poised to pick a buyer. Its board will address the topic later on Friday, sources told us.

For these and other stories on deals, click here. And for an overview of what other media are saying, have a look at our daily Market Chatter.

Deals du Jour

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Fritz Henderson addressses the media during a news conference at GM's Warren Technical Center in Warren, MichiganGeneral Motors’ upcoming Volt model will run up to 230 miles per gallon of fuel, but the saga to sell off its European operations seems equally long-lasting. The bidding process is now between two bidders — Magna International and RHJ International — with GM’s CFO Ray Young telling Reuters earlier that “everyone is anxious to get this thing done”.

In other M&A related stories reported by media on Wednesday:

Indian state-run explorer Oli and National Gas Corp is in talks with three Russian firms about a joint bid for a stake in YPF the Argentinean arm of Spanish oil major Repsol YPF SA, the Economic Times reported.

JP Morgan is looking to sell 23 office properties in what may be the country’s largest office real estate sale this year, the Wall Street Journal said. Here’s Reuters’ report.

My other car is in limbo

miniimage1 Be careful what you wish for. 

Just a week after launching the cash-for-clunkers rebate program, policymakers and auto executives are left sorting through the chaos caused by the program’s runaway success.

As of Friday, there was no knowing how much longer funding for the program will last. The Obama administration has reassured car shoppers and dealers that any trade-ins over the weekend will be honored at rebates for up to $4,500. Meanwhile, the U.S. House rushed to triple funding  for the program, adding another $2 billion in a bill that heads to the Senate where it could face tougher scrutiny.U.S. car sales for July, set to be released on Monday, are expected to show a turbocharged boost from the government program, a sleeper success in a string of policy steps aimed at stabilizing the U.S. auto industry that has included government-sponsored bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler.Before the rush of clunker trade-ins, analysts had been looking for industry-wide July auto sales to top 10 million units, the highest rate of 2009 and an encouraging sign the market has turned the corner. Investors have discounted some of that recovery. Shares in AutoNation, the No. 1 dealership group, have gained 48 percent since the start of the second quarter. Shares in the No. 2 dealership group, Penske Automotive Group, have more than doubled.With inventories tight, automakers also stand to gain as production — and revenues — increase in the second half. July sales data will help sort the winners from the losers, but the early anecdotal evidence suggests that the some of the biggest gains have gone to the automakers that were already outperforming. Hyundai says about 18 percent of its sales in the month of July included a cash-for-clunker backed trade-in. Ford,  which is seeking to distance itself from the rest of Detroit, reports that cash-for-clunker trade-ins were boosting sales of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars as opposed to crossovers and trucks. That is also the area where Ford’s product line-up is seen as giving it an edge against GM and Chrysler.

Delphi’s Race To Redemption

Delphi may close to the finish line, bringing to a close its four-year-long bankruptcy. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says it will take over the pension plans of 70,000 Delphi workers and retirees. That can’t be anything but good news for potential bidders for Delphi assets.

Talks between Delphi and its lenders have been progressing toward a compromise deal that would supersede a bid by private equity firm Platinum Equity favored by GM and the U.S. Treasury, sources have told us. What else might it take to get Delphi to the finish line? The next few days will tell if enough has been done.

Last night the federal judge hearing the case postponed the auction of Delphi’s assets until Friday. A hearing to approve the reorganization plan (or sale) is now scheduled for next Wednesday. Delphi said it expects to announce the outcome of the auction perhaps by Monday. What’s a few more days after years in the tank?

GM to sell assets to “newco,” future of “oldco” still uncertain

gmA U.S. federal judge has authrorized the sale of General Motors’ most profitable assets to a “new GM,” backed by the government, in a move seen as crucial for the automaker to exit bankruptcy protection.

The decision by Judge Robert Gerber of the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan came after three days of hearings to address the 850 objections to the restructuring plan. In his 95-page opinion, Judge Gerber wrote that the sale would “prevent the death of the patient on the operating table.”

Under the terms of the revised deal, G.M. would sell its best assets, including the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC brands, to a new company owned largely by the American and Canadian governments and a health care trust for the United Automobile Workers union.

Live blogging the GM bankruptcy hearing

General Motors is back in bankruptcy court on Wednesday, seeking approval to sell its choice assets to a “New GM” in a plan to reinvigorate the automaker under U.S. government ownership.

Reuters reporters Emily Chasan and Phil Wahba will be filing updates from the hearing in the live headline box below and on the DealZone Twitter feed.

Riding on GM’s rehab

Lear is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The auto parts supplier’s lenders have agreed to waive defaults under its primary credit facility through June 30. The ventilator may still be working, but the decision on whether to pull the plug will soon be at hand.

Last week, the White House rejected a request from the auto parts industry for up to $10 billion in additional emergency funding. Yesterday, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson made the case that a speedy exit from bankruptcy for the automaker was the way to avoid a “fatal” blow to suppliers.

Henderson said tentative plans to resume operations at some GM plants by July 13 could be endangered if the court does not approve the sale of the its best assets to a reorganized company funded by Uncle Sam.

Live: GM bankruptcy court hearing

GM cleared several of the hurdles on its way out of bankruptcy Thursday at a court hearing in Manhattan. The federal bankruptcy judge gave GM the final ok to tap the rest of its $33.3 billion bankruptcy financing and a lawyer for asbestos claimants withdrew a request for official committee status. Other obstacles including the status of non-union retirees rights to healthcare benefit– are on the agenda for the afternoon. We’ll be filing updates from the hearing in the live headline box below and on our Twitter feed.

Faster than a speeding bankruptcy

After enjoying a bit of confusion from savior Fiat about the imperative of a June 15 deadline, and a quick, 24-hour trip to the Supreme Court, Chrysler creditors now know in no uncertain terms just how much political will there is behind getting the automaker’s government-orchestrated deal done.

The top U.S. court can certainly be counted on to ponderously deliberate matters of vital importance to the nation. But when the consequences of delay are dire (thousands of auto workers’ jobs, a U.S. presidency, etc.), a decision to not make a decision can come with lightning speed.

In a brief two-page order, the justices said opponents of the Fiat-Chrysler deal had not met the burden of showing the Supreme Court needed to intervene. The court’s action was not a decision on the merits of the challenge, they said. The Chrysler dispute marked the first time the Supreme Court had been confronted by legal issues involving the federal government’s power to deal with the economic crisis.