GM considers options ahead of court ruling

As General Motors executives await a key court ruling that will determine whether they can establish a new company, the shape of any future enterprise is already being considered.

At issue are questions such as when sales of the new company's shares will begin and how much public financial disclosure the new GM will offer. The revamped company will be largely owned by the US government, which will have a 60 percent stake.

The Canadian government will control 11 percent, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union's healthcare trust a further 17.5 percent and the remainder will belong to various secured creditors that have agreed to accept equity for debt.

If GM receives a favorable ruling this week, chief financial officer Ray Young wants an initial public offering to get underway as soon as practicable.

"There is a lot of interest from the future stakeholders of new GM to start the process of selling down the shares," Young said last month.

"At the earliest, we would be talking about the first or second quarter of 2010 and after that it could take years to unwind the government and union positions."

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, who is concerned about the union's health care trust, has said he wants the shares sold as soon as possible, but Canada has said it could take eight years to sell its stake.

Flags fly outside the General Motors world headquarters building in May 2009 in Detroit, Michigan

Questions also remain about the level of public financial disclosure GM will offer in its next incarnation.

After emerging from bankruptcy, GM could operate as a privately-held company, which would require it to submit regular financial reports to principal shareholders that might not be made public.

Young has said that GM, which burned through 40 billion dollars in cash and lost 100 billion in market value since 2005, intends to make significant changes to its balance sheet by writing off assets and revaluing others.

But GM spokeswoman Renee J. Rashid-Merem said the company had no intention of trying to hide its financial condition.

"We will provide an adequate level of detail. There is no intention of not being open," she said.

GM is a complex enterprise with 400 separate subsidiaries worldwide and it is not likely to provide information in future financial report on either its European operations or its pension obligations.

"The new GM's major shareholder is the US Government, or essentially you and I, and I think the taxpayers and Congress should demand public filings of financial information just like GM did when they were a public company," said Brad Coulter, a consultant with O'Keefe & Associates in Bloomfield, Michigan.

But some experts believe it might be in GM's interest to limit public financial disclosure.

"Maybe it's good GM isn't going to disclose financial information, because with GM, the bad news never stops," said Van Conway, a bankruptcy expert based in Detroit, the home of the US auto industry. "They've got to figure out a way to get beyond it."

Source AFP

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