GM Back On Road with Blockbuster IPO; But Is That Enough?

   on November 18 2010 1:58 PM
A message welcoming General Motors is seen on the Morgan Stanley stock ticker at their world headquarters in New York
Shares of automaker General Motors opened at $35 in its first trading day on the NYSE after recovering from a government funded bailout. The opening price was an increase of 2 percent from its IPO price of $33. Reuters

True to its name, the position and the sway over the consumers around the world over several decades, the General Motors, popularly known as GM, is back with a bang. This time, the Detroit's twilight has come out with an Initial Public Offering (IPO), which is already the largest in the U.S. and in all probabilities could also be the world's largest.

The automaker will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange beginning today after a landmark intial public offering, from which GM is expected to raise as high as $23 billion.

As we prepare to enter the equity markets, all of us at GM are excited about this historic milestone. We are especially appreciative of those who stood by us through the toughest times, and we are dedicated to creating value for all of our stakeholders, said GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell.

After being in the sidelines for more than two years following the bankruptcy, GM has found that the appetite for its equity papers are in great demand and therefore decided to increase the size of its public offering by almost 31 percent.

Though the company's public offering has been in the air for quite some, the increased offering size comes on the heels of the company reporting a profit of $2 billion, its third consecutive quarter registering solid profit, on the back of strong demand for its high margin trucks.

Yesterday, GM priced its IPO at $33 apiece, the high end of its $32 to $33 range. GM will raise $20.1 billion from its IPO by selling 478 million common shares and offering up to $4.6 billion worth of preferred shares at $50 each, making it one of the largest IPO in the U.S. history. Credit card company Visa raised $19.7 billion from its IPO in 2008.

Previously, Detroit-based GM had planned to sell 365 million common shares for $26 to $29 each and preferred shares worth $3 billion.

The underwriters of the GM's IPO have the option to buy up to 71.7 million shares, expanding the size of the offering to about 550 million shares.

If the underwriters exercised their over-allotment options, GM could raise $23.1 billion and would make it the world's largest IPO. As of now, Agricultural Bank of China's $22.1 billion debut on the Hong Kong and Shanghai markets is the world's largest IPO.

Other big IPOs include Industrial & Commercial Bank of China's $21.9 billion stock sale in 2006 and Japan's NTT Mobile Communications Network raised $18.4 billion in 1998.

Speedier Payback To Treasury

The strong investor backing to the IPO would see a speedier payback to the U.S. treasury, which shelled out billions to bail out the bleeding automaker in 2009.

The U.S. government will sell 412 million of its 912 million shares and raise about $13.6 billion, helping the treasury to recover some of the $50 billion taxpayer money it loaned for the automaker's bailout.

The soaring investor demand is likely to reduce the U.S. government stake in the troubled automaker to as little as 33 percent.

Canada ownership in GM would also fall to as low as 9.3 percent from 12 percent, while the United Auto Workers' stake would drop to 13.3 percent from 20 percent.

Chinese Owners

Interestingly, the new GM owners would include Chinese state-run firms. Two Chinese banks -- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China [ICBC] and China International Capital Corp [CICC] - are underwriters of the GM's IPO, making it the first time the Chinese government-owned banks taking part in a major US IPO, according to Dealogic.

Early Thursday, GM's main joint venture partner in China, SAIC Motor Corp., said it has bought about 1 percent stake in the automaker for about $500 million.

This could be interesting as U.S. and China are already locking horns over undervaluation of China's currency and a trade war is likely on the cards between the two nations. On the other hand, the Chinese investment could be a positive for GM as its largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Russia.

In addition, GM's IPO is being underwritten by several big financial institutions in the U.S., including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup. Deutsche Bank and two Brazilian banks are also underwriters of what could be the biggest IPO in the U.S. history.

Can GM Relax over Landmark IPO?

For GM, the owner of popular brands such as Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, its problems does not end with the IPO. There are several concerns hovering around the company, including its losses in Europe, marketing strategy in North America. In addition, GM also said it expects its fourth-quarter operating profit to come in below the level of the first three quarters of the year, citing a different product mix and higher costs.

Analysts say that GM has to do more work to effectively compete with peer Ford, which not only avoided bankruptcy, but is set to register record profits this year. Interestingly, Ford also faced exactly the same challenges as GM, including the United Auto Workers payouts, rivalry from Asian counterparts like Toyota, surging oil prices and above all, the same recession.

Ford, founded by Henry Ford and incorporated in 1903, also announced debt reduction actions in the automotive business to strengthen its balance sheet. The company stated recently it will use cash to fully prepay the remaining $3.6 billion of debt it owes to the VEBA retiree health care trust. As of September 30, Ford's total automotive debt was $26.4 billion.

For the fourth quarter, Ford expects production to be up by 27,000 units compared with the year-ago levels and to be up by 89,000 units compared with the third quarter. Ford also said that it expects to continue to deliver solid results in the fourth quarter with each of its operations being profitable.

Analysts say though GM's products are vastly improved in recent years they still do not match those of Ford and its Japanese and European rivals. Despite the gigantic cost cuts, GM's profit margins in North America still remain below Ford's.

GM's Return Amid Improving Car Market

GM, once a blue chip stock, lost its number one automaker by sales status to Japan's Toyota. Adding to the woes, the 102-year old company was hurt by falling sales amid a sharp US recession, resulting in a government-backed bailout.

However, the GM's return to the market comes at a time when auto sector is rebounding amid improving car sales. Auto stocks are also performing well, with Ford's share price has witnessed a steady rally this year, from $8 in last November to about $17 this November.

But GM is improving. Before bankruptcy, it was losing over $3,500 a car, but it is now earning over $1,700 each car and the automaker is set to earn about $19 billion a year when the car market rebounds.

With a new business model, centered around designing, building and selling the world's best vehicles, we're ready to compete and are confident about the company's future, said CFO Liddell.

GM, which is still one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 209,000 people and does business in more than 120 countries.

The company's shares will resume trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Dan Akerson, who will lead GM's new management team and the company's fourth CEO in two years, will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday to mark the start of GM's trading.

The stock is expected to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GM and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol GMM.

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