October 31, 2008

Treasury says no cash for GM, Chrysler merger talks stalled, Renault hookup rumors persist

The tumultuous storyline of the GM - Chrysler merger reads like a script fit for Hollywood. Both need each other to survive.
Neither can make it alone.

But parties on both sides have a lot to lose.

And with today's news from the Treasury, the White House — and even Renault — the story gets messier by the minute.

Will they? Won't they?
Read on..

Yesterday, it seemed a forgone conclusion that General Motors and Chrysler LLC would merge within the next month, despite the consequences for nearly all Chrysler's models.

Now, the US Treasury and the Bush administration are adamant, saying they will not broker a merger deal or heed GM CEO Rick Wagoner's request for more money. Speaking with Reuters, a Bush administration official said that the "Treasury is not negotiating with the automakers, the administration is working to get the $25 billion Congress already authorized to the industry."

Instead, the Bush administration and the Treasury will speed the distribution of $25 billion in federally-backed, low-interest loans, drawn from an aid package approved by Congress last month.

Automotive News reports that both GMAC and Chrysler Financial - finance agencies owned jointly by GM and Chrysler's owner, Cerberus Capital Management — would qualify to sell their distressed assets to the Treasury under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

"An unmanageable disaster" for Rust Belt states
While the sale of troubled debt will help GM's overall cashflow, it doesn't help the underlying problem that drove GM to seek Chrysler in the first place: a lack of financing. Without new borrowing or asset sales, GM is in danger of running dangerously low on cash in 2009, analysts have said.

Hoping to draw attention to the dire need for capital, the governors of Michigan, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Delaware and South Dakota wrote the Bush administration in a plea for further assistance. Facing pressure from a surge of unemployment claims and a decline in state tax revenue, the "economic crisis" facing automakers "threatens to create an unmanageable disaster at the state level," the letter said.

Michigan's congressional delegation — lead by Energy and Commerce Committee chair John
Dingell — has also lobbied the Bush administration to free up funds for the Big Three.

Ford joins the bailout fray, seeking "degree of parity"
And just when this couldn't get more complicated, here comes Ford. Reuters reports that FoMoCo has been angling for their own piece of the financial aid pie. If the government provides a direct injection of capital into either GM or Chrysler, Ford want their fair share as well.

Speaking with reporters, Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas said the company wants to "make sure that whatever happens, there is a degree of parity."

But for now, any aid — or merger negotiations — will be delayed until after Election Day.

So what happens now?
With the GM-Chrysler talks stalled, Renault pops back into the picture. As NMM reported two weeks ago, French automaker Renault has expressed interest in buying Chrysler's Jeep division outright from Cerberus.

Recently, Renault has backed away from the table, playing down rumors of a three-way partnership between Chrysler, Renault and it's Japanese partner Nissan Motor Corporation.

Nonetheless, the lack of progress with General Motors opens the door to new talks between Cerberus and Renault. Sources close to the early discussion said that Cerberus has considered a deal with Renault and Nissan as a favorable alternative to a full buyout of Chrysler by GM.

The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to discuss the private talks. General Motors and Cerberus both declined to comment.


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