November 7, 2008

GM posts $4.2 billion Q3 loss; exits Chrysler merger talks

Over the last three months ending Sept 30, General Motors has lost $46 million each day.

Announcing its third quarter earnings today, General Motors posted a $4.2 billion dollar loss, its fifth straight losing quarter and in an amount far greater than analysts had expected.
In response, GM shares fell 13 percent to close today at $4.16m amidst doubts about the company's cash reserves.

“The third quarter was especially challenging for the auto industry. Consumer spending, which represents close to 70 percent of the U.S. economy, fell dramatically, and the abrupt closure of credit markets created a downward spiral in vehicle sales,” said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in a statement.

Tight credit, rising unemployment, declining income, falling stock markets, and continuing deterioration in the housing market have all contributed to an abrupt halt in consumer spending. Many customers who still intended to buy or lease a car this summer were denied financing, or found the cost of financing prohibitive.

In response to today's earning report, the beleaguered automaker said it would cut white-collar jobs and slash next year's capital spending budget by $2.5 billion in attempt to cope with the troubled economy. Including job cuts made in July, more than 7,000 salaried and contract positions are being eliminated, trimming spending on salaries by $500 million.

This afternoon, Wagoner renewed his pleas for low-interest loans from the U.S. Treasury. “The U.S. government’s actions to help stabilize the credit markets and eventually ease the credit crunch are an essential first step to the economy’s and the auto industry’s recovery, but further strong action is required.”

The biggest problem confronting GM is a lack of cash to pay it's suppliers and operating costs. Most of the company's funds are tied up in factories or tooling; without an injection of capital, analysts predict that GM will run out of cash by the second quarter of 2009.

Finding new lenders will not be easy, either. In response to the $46 million per day cash burn, Standard & Poor's lowered GM's debt rating further into junk status, from B- down to CCC+. "We now believe GM will use much more cash this year than our previous estimate of as much as $16 billion in its global automotive operations," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Robert Schulz in a statement.

The 'will-they, wont-they' romance is over: GM kills Chrysler merger talks
Without mentioning Chrysler verbatim, Wagoner confirmed the end of negotiations with Chrysler to Automotive News.

"We have recently explored the possibility of such an acquisition based on the analysis that it would strengthen
our industry position in the long term," Wagoner said. "we are better off to put 100 percent of our efforts on the liquidity side. We've set aside such (acquisition) actions as a near term priority."

Chrysler issued its own statement separately, saying the company would continue to work on returning to profitability. "As an independent company we will continue to explore multiple strategic alliances or partnerships as we investigate growth opportunities around the world that would aid our return to profitability."

Majority shareholder, Cerberus Capital Management declined to comment.

So what's next for GM?
In short, a fire sale.

The automaker has already killed the next generation of its full-size sport-utes and is ramping up efforts to sell the ailing HUMMER brand.
Today, GM said it would put its ACDelco aftermarket parts business up for sale, a move the company expects will raise another $2-$4 billion.

Wagoner reiterated today that bankruptcy is not an option and that the company "will take whatever actions we can to avoid it."

But Wagoner's pledge will be hard to uphold given the state of the economy.
Ford Motor Co. posted a $3 billion after-tax operating loss for the third quarter today, and said it too would cut costs further to preserve cash.

Both automakers said that U.S. sales will worsen next year.
GM forecast its 2009 U.S. sales at 11.7 million units; if true, next year will be the company's slowest since 1982. In 2010, GM predicts US sales will rise to 12.7 million unit -- over 4 million less than the automaker's 10-year average ending last year.


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