Despite having more cash than debt for the first time in decades, GM is going back to Wall Street in search of fresh debt. Over the weekend, The General has been in talks with several banks to secure a $5b revolving line of credit to shore up its liquidity position ahead of an IPO that’s rumored to take place in August. At $5b, GM’s desired line of credit would essentially replace the $5.8b the automaker has repaid to the Treasury, and will help it deal with a number of pressing cash needs to maintain its shaky global empire. But with so many pressing uses for the cash, and political pressure mounting for a rapid IPO, can GM deal with its issues and take on more debt and be worth what the government wants it to be worth? Troublingly, the answers to these questions are not to be found on GM’s balance sheet.
GM’s money-losing European Opel division has lost over a billion dollars since the firm emerged from bankruptcy, and will require nearly $5b in restructuring funds, to be paid by GM since state aid from Germany fell through. On the other side of the Eurasian continent, another crisis is racking GM’s other most important overseas division, GM-Daewoo. Tradingmarkets reports that GM-DAT’s creditors (including the Korean Development Bank) have agreed to roll over some $900m in debt. And not just because they’re sweet people either. The payback was postponed on the condition that GM
transfer key auto technologies to its South Korean unit and dispatch an official to take charge of the subsidiary’s finances to keep it afloat
Needless to say, this $6b overseas money pit is a nasty bit of business given GM’s desire to hold an IPO this summer. Which is where the $5b credit line comes in. Unfortunately, GM isn’t having an easier time getting money from Wall Street than it did trying to get money from the German government.
In fact, GM is even keeping its options open to include asset sales, according to the FT. Possibly up for sale: GM’s stakes in Delphi and GMAC (now known as Ally Financial). But with nobody breaking down doors to get at either of those two struggling firms, credit is GM’s first line of defense against looming cash problems. After all, as IHS Global Insight’s Rebecca Lindland tells the Freep
Alan Mulally taught the industry, you can never borrow too much cash
And here we were thinking that the bailout proved that you could take on such crushing debt loads that the government has to rescue you. Speaking of which, Reuters reports that fellow TARP recipients, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, have agreed to each provide half a billion dollars to the GM revolving credit cause. The other $3b? No word on that front yet… and that’s not exactly great news when you’re about to ask the market to out a value on your stock.
GM says it has two weeks to line up the remaining $3b in credit, and sources tell Reuters that
GM is more likely to cut the valuation on the IPO than delay it and is looking for a broad investor base
And at this point the size and valuation of GM’s IPO is the crucial question. Treasury is staying cagey about just how much of its 61 percent stake in GM it will float, but 20-24 percent is being mentioned as a possibility. That would make sense, as it would be just barely enough to take the Treasury’s below the crucial 51 percent mark, theoretically freeing GM from the stigma of majority government ownership.
Reuters says that this 12.2-14.6 percent stake could be worth $10b-$12b, numbers that would give GM an overall value of around $80b. With GM planning to sell $3b worth of convertible securities, the Canadian and Ontario governments looking to move 20 percent of its 11.7 stake, and the UAW moving an undisclosed amount of its stake, Reuters reckons GM’s IPO could reach $15b-$20b. That would make it one of the biggest IPOs in American history.
If everything goes to plan, anyway. But here’s a problem: the $80b-ish market cap that this hypothetical IPO supports, is over twice the market cap of automakers like Ford Motor Company, Nissan (which stands on the brink of an EV breakthrough) and Volkswagen. Though smaller than Toyota’s $107b-ish market cap, this valuation would make GM one of the most valuable automakers in the world, despite modest post-bankruptcy operating profit, looming overseas division issues and $27b in pension shortfalls. That last issue alone could cost the company as much as $12b by 2014.
No wonder then, that GM’s IPO hypsters are using Ebitdapo, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization and postretirement benefits to tout its financial health. But pretending like those pension obligations don’t exist doesn’t make it so. Is GM in better shape than it once was? Undoubtedly. Is it one of the most valuable automakers in the world? Almost certainly not. The fact that GM is determined not to delay its IPO is a product of political needs, not market-related concerns. If a mid-term election weren’t looming, the Treasury would wait to let GM deal with its numerous remaining issues before releasing the automaker into the wild. But it can’t have its cake and eat it to: if GM’s IPO launches this August, it will do so with so many potential cash sucks hanging over it, that an $80b valuation isn’t likely to be the result.