It’s almost a cliche. Someone mentions the $23.5 loan package that Ford Motor Company presciently took out in 2006, a loan that allowed Ford to develop new products and survive the economic meltdown and credit crunch of 2008 while its crosstown rivals were reduced to begging Washington for a bailout, and almost invariably they will bring up the fact that Ford pawned everything including their “blue oval”. Well, Ford once again owns the famous cerulean logo free and clear. Now that Moody’s has joined Fitch Ratings in restoring the rating on Ford’s debt to investment grade from junk status, the collateral that Ford put up for the loan, which included the logo, Ford’s “glass house” headquarters, several factories, and intellectual property including the Mustang and F-150 trademarks, is no longer security on that debt, per the terms of the loan.
I know I’ve said this several times before, but the end really is near for Saab. The WSJ [sub] reports that Sweden’s Debt Enforcement Agency began auditing Saab’s finances after several debts came due earlier this week, and found only 5.1 Kroner ($796,291) in its Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken account. That’s barely enough to cover the 5.06m Kroner in debts that came due this week alone… and Saab’s total outstanding debt is ten times that amount, around 50m Kroner. And as if the financial trouble weren’t dire enough, key stakeholders are abandoning Saab in embarrassment, like Benny Holmgren, one of Sweden’s largest car dealers. Holmgren tells SvD.se that his contract to sell Saabs has expired and that he won’t renew, explaining
“For me, it is important to be proud of the brands that we have in our halls. Saab does not deliver cars they promised, they do not pay wages to their employees, nor debts to their suppliers while the owners pick out big money. It does not feel right for a [my] car dealers.”
But among the hardcore Saab faithful, today is not a day of sorrowful resignation… but a day of totally overblown and unrealistic hope for their dying brand. Yes, really…
Just three weeks after Saab narrowly avoided being pushed into bankruptcy by supplier SwePart, SvD.se reports that three other suppliers have now initiated the bankruptcy process by requesting that Sweden’s national debt bailiffs pursue their debts. One Spanish supplier is reported to be foreclosing on €2m ($2.8m in debt), while two of the rebelling German firms are said to be owed at least €5m each. And though Saab says it is meeting with the Spanish firm to try to hammer out a deal, SvD reports that four of the 14 outstanding claims against Saab have run out of time. Lars Holmqvist, head of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers argues that, by paying some suppliers and not others, Saab is de facto bankrupt, and that a trustee should be brought in to pay suppliers in order of priority, rather than order of Saab’s necessity. Meanwhile, Saab CEO Victor Muller has been in Brazil and the US, trying to bring new investors on board, as its Chinese funding won’t be approved for two-to-three months, if ever. Meanwhile, “taxes and fees” must be paid by Friday, August salaries are due in just two weeks, and Muller cut his latest money-raising trip short to reassure workers back in Trolhättan. But according to thelocal.se, even the most optimistic of union leaders hope Saab will have a new CEO soon. Do I hear the fat lady warming up her vocal cords?
A group of businesses that are owed anywhere between $198 and $744,083 could force ailing Saab to declare bankruptcy. They have turned to the Swedish Enforcement Agency, better known (and feared) in Sweden as the “Kronofogden.” That agency introduces itself as follows:
“Is there a bill you cannot pay? Or are you not getting paid by someone who owes you money? In both cases, it will be Kronofogden that you come into contact with. A debt that is not paid ends up in Kronofogden´s register. This register is open for all to consult. As a result, anyone wishing to find out how someone else manages their finances can check the register. If a person´s name appears in the register, he/she can find it difficult to buy on hire purchase, borrow money or rent an apartment.”
Currently, there are 48 entries on that list that claim that Saab owes them. Lots of suppliers. A few bill collectors. A patent attorney. One of the world’s largest CPA firms, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, demands $104,904.
As Steve Rattner described in his book “Overhaul,” the Presidential Auto Task Force very nearly decided not to rescue Chrysler, with the decision coming down to a single vote. Now, it seems, that with Chrysler blaming the “shyster” interest rates on its government loans for its lack of profitability, Chrysler’s viability now depends on rounding up a “lender of second to last resort.” And, according to the latest reports, that rescue-of-a-rescue effort is still very much hanging in the balance as well. If CEO Sergio Marchionne thought the government’s loan terms were “shyster”-ish, he was clearly in need of some context from Wall Street… and he doesn’t seem to be liking it.
News that the government will sell only $6b-$8b worth of its GM equity has been joined by an even more surprising GM IPO announcement: GM will buy the Treasury’s entire $2.1b holding of preferred stock in the initial offering. GM has not announced how much it will pay for the stake, and the Detroit News reports that it’s not yet clear if GM will also buy some $400m in preferred stock held by the Canadian and Ontario governments. We’re also getting word via Twitter that GM will put $4b in cash and $2b worth of its stock into its overdrawn UAW pension fund, as well as making a $2.8b payment to the UAW VEBA account. With a $5b line of credit secured, GM says these and other steps will reduce its debt by $11b over an unspecified timeline. And speaking to Reuters, GM CEO Dan Akerson made it clear what the point of these moves are:
It’s up to people like you and me, the burden we share, that we deliver on the promise and return the investment to the American taxpayers. We are going to do our level best to make that happen, and we will only do that by expanding our industrial base and entering new markets and being a better competitor.
Of course, we’ll have to see what value The General places on the preferred stock to know how seriously Akerson should be taken. After all, talk is cheap and money isn’t. [UPDATE: It appears that GM will buy the preferred stock for $25.50 each, essentially giving the Government its book value of $2.14b]
When Alan Mulally came to FoMoCo, his strategy was simple. Quite literally. “One Ford.” Jaguar? Out. Land Rover? Out. Volvo? Out. Mercury? Out. Aston Martin? Out (but we’ll keep a small stake, just in case…). It’s all about “Ford.” And it’s worked. Ford is flying high and is closing in on GM in the US market. But there’s one thing that stops Ford flying even higher. It’s that millstone around their neck, called debt. And lots of it. About $27.3b in the most recent quarter. Some economists believe that is what is depressing Ford’s stock price. Well, it seems Mr Mulally is going to have a laser focus on this problem. (Read More…)
At the end of the second quarter of this year, Ford’s overall automotive debt totaled $25.8 billion. Just three months before, its debt level was at $32.6 billion. The debt reduction is all part of CEO Alan Mulally’s plant to earn an investment-grade debt rating by the end of 2011, a move that will lower Ford’s cost of borrowing as well as lowering interest payments. And though Ford’s been making a healthy profit, America’s bailout-free automaker has had more than its fair share of government help to beat the debt. According to the WSJ [sub], Ford’s extensive collection of government loan guarantees has been key to its ability to pay down more expensive debt accumulated during Ford’s 2006 restructuring.
It’s safe to buy Ford again. Ford as in the F share. After trading at close to $15 in April, it could be had below $10 yesterday. A bargain. Or so it seems. (Read More…)
An interview with Forbes the boss of the Korean Development Bank, which GM-Daewoo still owes several billion dollars, reveals that GM’s South Korean unit had a debt-to-equity ratio of 912 percent as recently as last June. GM “rescued” its crucial small-car development center by buying up all $413m of GM-Daewoo’s recent share offering, keeping the the KDB from imposing its will on the automaker. That was enough to keep the wolf from Daewoo’s door in the short term, but if Daewoo is ever going to develop a new generation of GM small cars and global products, it will have to address its $2b KDB debt and raise additional funds. For now though, GM-Daewoo is just hoping to keep a little momentum going.
Despite Ford’s surging stock price, new models and rising customer confidence there’s always been that one bone of contention which had divided peoples’ opinion: debt. $35 billion of it. Though they’ve tried to restructure it, selling new shares and raising cash throughout 2009, it’s still a problem. But apparently it’s becoming less of a problem. ABC news report that Fitch Ratings upgraded their assessment of the risk of Ford defaulting on its debt obligations, basing their optimistic view on a better economic environment, the company’s stronger margins, increased market share and cash position. Oh yes, and a small matter of $5.9b in federal DOE retooling loans [full Fitch release here]. Ford’s Credit unit also received a hearty slap on the back from Fitch because of its improving access to capital, as its rating was raised from “CCC” to “B-”. But let’s not get carried away. While this is a positive step in Alan Mulally’s vision of a sustainable Ford, the rating still qualifies Ford debt as non-investment grade.
Managing debt is a most American exercise, and after finishing the third quarter of this year owing $26.9b in debt, Ford is in management mode. According to Reuters, Ford will repay $1.9b of its $10.7b “mother of all subprime mortgages” revolving credit line, part of $23.5b in loans Ford backed with all of its assets (up to and including its logo) in 2006. $7.2 billion of revolver debt is being pushed on down the road though, from November 2011 to November 2013, and $724m has been converted to a term loan due in December 2013. More worryingly, lenders refused to roll over $886m of the debt Ford requested, bringing it due in December 2011.
It’s not that GM’s Korean Daewoo division doesn’t need more money. The problem is that the only bank willing to lend a dime, the Korean Development Bank, wants strings attached. Since GM came up with the cash to buy up Daewoo’s $413m rights offering, it says Daewoo is out of trouble for two more years. Or 18 months… depending on that troublesome global car market. Meanwhile, GM-Daewoo’s $5b worth of forward contracts will burn up $300m in cash every month, as the debt matures. Although KDB and GM-Daewoo’s other lenders refuse to roll any of that debt forward and have been firm about enacting safeguards before loaning the automaker more money, GM’s Nick Reilly says Daewoo can now negotiate from a position of relative strength. Emphasis on relative.