By on November 20, 2008

We made a huge mistake with our “SAIC may buy GM” story. We paid for our sins. The story created so much traffic that it literally melted two servers. TTAC’s China Syndrome. As you are painfully aware, TTAC was out of commission several times yesterday. A day after the story broke, the story broke our servers. Hit counters for all stories are currently SNAFU; they just gave up and went home. A huge amount of traffic keeps pouring in from China. And no wonder: a Chinese search for the same story produces 76,500 hits. If we’d run this story a few months ago, a wagon would have pulled up outside of TTAC World Headquarters, and they would have taken us away in straitjackets and a Thorazine drip in our veins. Now, a lot of people think GM is crazy for not doing the deal. A Connecticut hedge fund manager, who we reached for comment, looked at the screen, said “Ugh, the market is ugly.” When prodded to focus on GM and SAIC, he said: “If I’d be GM, I’d be in Shanghai right now, negotiating the deal. Then I would go to Congress and say: What are you going to do about it?”

Taking over GM would be just one in a long series of Chinese foreign deals. As early as 2003, Sinochem had invested $105m for the acquisition of gas assets in the United Arab Emirates. In 2004, Computer maker Lenovo bought IBM’s personal computer business for $1.75b. The Chinese consumer electronics firm TCL Corp. purchased the television business of French manufacturer Thomson SA, and with it the rights to the RCA logo. In 2005, China National Offshore Oil Company Ltd. (CNOOC) bid $18.5b, all cash, for Unocal. The deal was viewed as a threat to America’s security, and was withdrawn. Unocal settled for a $17b buyout by Chevron, in cash and shares, a good deal less than what the Chinese did bid.

In the same year, China’s appliance manufacturer Haier, assisted by private equity firms Blackstone and Bain Capital, bid $1.3b for Maytag.  Haier was after the same what SAIC would get from GM in spades: A household brand name, and a nationwide distribution network that could vastly expand its sales. The Maytag man in blue would have been a good fit, and the strategic importance of washers and dryers would have been manageable. However, political pressure did set in again, and the lonely Maytag man remained without Chinese company.

“In 2007, acquisitions in the United States by foreign ventures hit $407 billion, up 93 percent from the previous year, according to Thomson Financial. The top countries investing were Canada, Britain and Germany; the Middle East and Asia — especially China — are quickly catching up,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. Last year alone, China bought nearly $10b worth of US companies. The same year, China liked working with Blackstone so much, that they bought at $3b stake in the private equity firm. A $5b stake in Morgan Stanley followed. The buying spree was caused by the lower dollar. Since July, the dollar went sky high. But wonders of wonders, the Chinese did not adjust their currency to the higher dollar, in Yuan terms, buying American is just as cheap as it was.

Yesterday,  we discussed the huge spike of traffic with our friends at Gasgoo, in Shanghai. The same day, Gasgoo intensively grilled Philip Wylie and Joseph Gang, two leading professionals from Houlihan Lokey, U.S No. 1 restructuring investment banking firm. Said Gang: “The Chinese companies are quicker in evaluating and closing acquisitions today than they were five years ago. They have more capital from years of profitability and rapid growth in the domestic market to make foreign investments and many leading companies globalize through M&A which is a strategic priority.

“During the past one or two years, if we look at the larger deals in the automotive industry, you would find the Indian companies have been more aggressive in global auctions for controlling stakes and faster than Chinese companies. There are not many examples of Chinese companies purchasing foreign assets in the automotive industry.  The most successful cases involve Nanjing Automotive acquiring the MG Rover brand and related assets in the Europe, and Wanxiang acquiring multiple component suppliers through primarily minority purchases of distressed assets in the United States.”

“The operational challenges of managing the complexities of integrating a global business would not be materially different for any foreign companies, whether Chinese or Indian.”

China doesn’t like to be overtaken by India. Again, Chang hints what may be going down. China teams up with private equity firms, some of which it already owns: “For Chinese companies who intend to expand into international markets through M&A, it could be an alternative to team up with a private equity group for not only financing (albeit at the cost of sharing ownership), but also operations and governance support.” Translation: If a private equity firm buys out a company like Chrysler (as it happened), nobody cries about reds under beds. And it just so happens that China owns a good chunk of a private equity firm. Along with a chunk of Morgan. Along with a big chunk of the U.S. Treasury.

Today, the Straits Times reports that “China is now officially the US government’s largest foreign creditor after overtaking Japan, in a development that signals Washington’s increasing reliance on Beijing to save its economy.” According to US Treasury Department figures, China became the largest foreign holder of United States Treasuries. As of September, the U.S. Treasury owes China $585b. With GM’s market cap now standing at a pocket change rate of  $1.35b, and getting cheaper by the minute, China could buy 433 General Motors with their T bills alone.

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30 Comments on “Editorial: China Could Buy 433 General Motors With Their T Bills Alone...”


  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Democrats might be happy now with Uncle Obama locked and loaded, but as those balance-sheet figures attest, the world is going to be tapped out for demand of US promises on paper soon.

    We haven’t even seen the gaudy numbers on the debt-pile that we have racked up just in the past two months of bailing. We’ll be looking at a trillion+ deficit in FY2009 for the US Government. Wow.

    Combine that with the economic malaise setting in throughout the land, and Obama’s schemes and dreams about free healthcare, food, happiness, sunshine, and all the rest is kaput. All that paper is going to erupt somewhere as well, in the form of another price bubble in something. Pretending a dollar is worth a dollar when you’ve made ten more is not a valid hope. Poor Obama’s going to end up looking like Jimmy Carter I am afraid. The Republicans should count themselves lucky that what is coming they can construe as “not on their watch.”

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Dammit Bertel, you are just determined to bring the site down, aren’t you?

    Oh well, if the UAW has to negotiate labor contracts with the Peoples Liberation Army, it will all have been worth it.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “If I’d be GM, I’d be in Shanghai right now, negotiating the deal. Then I would go to Congress and say: What are you going to do about it?”

    Screw Congress, if I were GM I’d be signing this deal right now.

  • avatar

    Down with the running capitalist dogs at TTAC! Down!

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Red Ink Rick will probably use the China-buyout fears as his last bullet. No way will Congress and the President-Elect allow GM to become a Chinese subsidiary on their watch.

    Sadly, as CarNot said, we’re piled up a sea of red ink over the past thirty years, going form the world’s greatest creditor nation to it’s largest debtor. Largely because we still think we can spend money we don’t have because someone will loan it to us. One day REAL SOON the bill will come due. We’ve raised a generation on the idea that there really IS a Free Lunch, whether that’s Social Security, Medicare, Prescription Drugs, whatever. This nation simply cannot go on as it is; we must stop this insanity and start living within our means. We have mortgaged our children, our grandchildren, and our nation for political expediency (Buying Votes).

    GM’s up 26% today on the news that a deal may be done on the bailout. Of course, 26% of nothing is still…

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Bartel:

    It’s Capitalist Running Dogs. We’re already down wit dat.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    What’s funny about this whole mess is that Washington is the root of the problem, really. I mean, look at it :1) they’ve supported the UAW and vice-versa 2) they force upon the industry standards (safety, emissions, economy) that cost the industry HUNDREDS of billions to meet, 3) they mandate all kinds of silly OSHA rules at the factories, 4) they do not enforce a simple, fair trade practice (in any industry). And now, they are not willing to help? Or in my opinion, give back what they’ve stolen. And they wonder why even American automakers ship jobs out of country? I was waiting for one of those guys yesterday have the balls to say “the reason why we are building plants in Mexico, China, India, and Russia, is because it makes financial sense to do so. They are a lot less oppressive than YOU!” But, no, they don’t have the balls to say anything. When one dolt of a Senator asked “How will we know you won’t take this money and spend it in China” what should have been answered “Well, you pass a law against unionization, recind all but the basic safety standards, kill CAFE, kill OSHA, then we’ll promise to spend the money here” If I were GM,Ford,Chrysler I’d be structuring their business RIGHT NOW in such a way that they could simply walk away from the US, and just operate in the BRIC zones, and let the Unions, Congress, and the taxpayer (of which I am in the top 1%) blow in the wind until they beg and plead for them to come back in, just like they have with the transplants…

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    Comrades,

    I for one welcome our new Chinese overlords and wish them the best in fixing our nation.

    *sorry, couldn’t resist*

    This doesn’t surprise me, but does concern me a bit. It’s a little scary how much we owe the Chinese. I agree with the quote from the article to go to Congress saying “we’re in negotiations with the Chinese, wanna make us stop?”

  • avatar
    dew542512

    Bertel, how about starting a collection to fund a takeover of GM. With current values dropping like a rock this might be doable before GM files for C11. We could name Robert F. the first CEO of the new GM – now wouldn’t that be a twist!

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    What golf4me said is true in two ways:

    All the union/OSHA/CAFE/”Consumer Product Safety Commission” crap does impede the ability of automakers like GM to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in, though even with a rope like that thrown down the hole they’ve dug, I think Rick would just hang himself with it somehow.

    But the second more salient point is all that overhead prices start-ups completely out of the business – before they even get in business. Just to do a re-design on a current model for one of the big companies involves I don’t know, a couple hundred crashes into some concrete for crash-safety data? Something like that I am sure. What start-up can crash their first hundred cars off the line and then wait nine months for Uncle Sam to “get back to them on that?” Hogwash.

    Of course other giant companies in foreign lands can eat those costs, which is why you see only foreign outfits eating Red Rick’s lunch. Without the suffocating bureaucracy in place, you would’ve seen a hundred more companies show up in the past forty years of Detroit malaise to eat their lunch, and it would’ve been Americans doing the eating.

    Oh well, down with the Capitalist Running Dogs!

    Or my favorite, “JOY THROUGH LABOR!”

  • avatar
    50merc

    What the hell would China want with 433 GM’s? They’re trying to become MORE prosperous.

  • avatar

    Or my favorite, “JOY THROUGH LABOR!”

    It was not “Labor through joy?”

    Oh well, even sex isn’t what it used to be ….

  • avatar
    NickR

    China became the largest foreign holder of United States Treasuries. As of September, the U.S. Treasury owes China $585b.

    So, GM et al go hat in hand to the feds, the feds go hat in hand to China…who does China go to? They have a deep well to draw from these days…but not infinite. And given the deficits growing not incrementally but by leaps and bounds, one does wonder how many more 12 zero deficits even they can prop up.

    If you like worrying, these are good times.

  • avatar

    Well TTAC must’ve done something right to melt 2 servers!!!

    Yours has got to be the wildest crash I’ve seen. -The page came up looking like you’d try to open a Compiled application like Excel or Word in a Text Editor; -10 miles of Sanskrit and Scientific Notation.

    Hmm… note to self. next time site needs traffic, put “China” in headline

    +++Also note, that if China buys GM, all cars produced hence will be 40% Melamine and kill your babies, so Buy American!!!

  • avatar

    I was shocked by the sale of the IBM personal computer division to Lenovo, thinking that it was the death knell of the computer business in the U.S. I later learned that by selling to Lenovo, IBM made a very shrewd business move and increased the market for their mainframe software and hardware solutions, a core business which remains a profitable enterprise.

    Possibly a Chinese buyout of GM would allow the meltdown of bloated GM “management” and allow the good folks there who actually do something to get on with their jobs.

    As to those who feel that it was government meddling in safety and emissions standards which lead to this, I suggest you visit Bangkok, where the government has done no such thing. Walk around for a while, breathing the noxious brown air and think about having a crash in one of their 1970-vintage cars.

  • avatar
    compy386

    Market cap and enterprise value are two different things. A buyer wouldn’t “own” GM if they just paid for the equity. In fact, they banks will own in 2 months later when GM goes under. If someone really wanted to buy GM, they would actually buy the debt. It’s about half face value now so you can probably get it for fewer than $100 billion (haven’t done the math myself), but it’s still probably really expensive.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Personally this looks like a good deal for the USA, to me anyway.

    A few bil come back to the US and GMs liabilities (200B) go to China. The US market for GM collapses and we are rid of the Chinese influence to boot.
    They have fun in Europe, S america etc.

    How is this not a good plan.

    Ya, ya. I know the Fanboiz will meltdown (they always do).
    Jobs? Let’s be real, those are already gone.
    Image? Who’s? GM? Wagner’s? Lutz’?
    Puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze.

    Grab the money and run Comrades!

    Bunter

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Does anyone still think that the years of gross trade imbalances and shipping jobs out of the US has been a great idea?

  • avatar
    Kevin

    By now it’s pretty much a question of how many more T-bills would we have to pay China for them to take GM off our hands…

  • avatar
    Jacob

    CarnotCycle ,

    oh puhhlease, this is a USA not India or some other third world country where people can’t afford having a working seat belt or an air bag. Somehow, I don’t see people immigrating from the USA into one of those countries where they can enjoy the “freedom” on not having so much regulations. China would be a great place to start, where tens of thousands babies got poisoned by tainted milk products.

    As for CAFE. Yes. It’s stupid. Federal gas tax would have worked much better in terms of improving the efficiency and emissions of our vehicle fleet, and getting Americans to behave less wastefully.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    CarnotCycle,

    oh puhhlease, this is a USA not India or some other third world country where people can’t afford having a reasonable crash standard, a working seat belt, or an air bag. Somehow, I don’t see people immigrating from the USA into one of those countries where they can enjoy all the “freedom” from not having so much regulations. China would be a great place to start, where tens of thousands babies got poisoned by tainted milk products.

    As for CAFE. Yes. It’s stupid. Federal gas tax would have worked much better in terms of improving the efficiency and emissions of our vehicle fleet, and getting Americans to behave less wastefully.

  • avatar

    I mean, look at it :1) they’ve supported the UAW and vice-versa 2) they force upon the industry standards (safety, emissions, economy) that cost the industry HUNDREDS of billions to meet, 3) they mandate all kinds of silly OSHA rules at the factories, 4) they do not enforce a simple, fair trade practice (in any industry).

    Yeah, let’s go back to 19th century work houses where you were forced to work 16 hour days and could be fired on the spot for taking an unscheduled bathroom break. Meanwhile we’ll just spew pollutants into the air, let people drive unsafe vehicles and force them to drive overpriced GM cars because Honda, Toyota et al. (who strangely under the same rules of safety and standards manage to make a profit on vehicles built in this country) are excluded.

    Look at countries that DON’T have worker’s protections, safety or emission standards and DO have restricted trade policies (eg. China) and tell me you’d rather live there.

    GM’s woes aren’t due to any regulations, they are due to pissing away the money they made while they were in profit. “Make hay while the sun shines” the saying goes; GM just sat back staring at the sun and believed the summer would never come to an end.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    2) they force upon the industry standards (safety, emissions, economy) that cost the industry HUNDREDS of billions to meet, 3) they mandate all kinds of silly OSHA rules at the factories,

    When faced with a challenge a good company sees an opportunity and earns money meeting the challenge. Toyota just simply met those challenges and got richer. GE sees the energy challenge and makes windmills.

    A poorly managed company sees a challenge and panics into inaction and then begs for help.

    I remember the smell of auto exhaust back in the 1950s – you don’t want to go there.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    [email protected]…I think you misunderstood my point. I’m not espousing going back to the stone-age, but c’mon some of the regulations are just plain silly. Have you ever picked up the FMVSS? I doubt it. It weighs too much. Plus, the market will take care of most of the things you speak of. Take CAFE, for example. If gas is expensive, look what happens to the market. It shifts all by itself, based on consumer demand. Happened in the 70’s and about 2 months ago. Safety? Hmm, when seatbelts came about (by Volvo I believe) there was a rush to put them in only to compete. Same with just about every other innovation. Take the Prius. There was no “mandate” to produce Hybrids but alas, everyone is, because it’s a way to compete for those customers who want maximum efficiency or “green-ness”.

    And to the point that worker’s protections are needed, etc. is hogwash. Back in the early 1900’s there was no internet, no CNN, no anything to barrage the public with every little crumb of injustice toward mankind. Those things would never happen in this era, and you know it. And if they did, well, then, it’s a person’s CHOICE to put up with it if they want a job. I’m sick of the nanny state we’ve become. Work is work. Sometimes it’s dirty and smelly. It might even be bad for you, but if you don’t like it move on to do something else, or get a degree and work in an office. There’s something called choices. Make wise choices for yourself, and don’t worry so much about your neighbor. If everyone would do this, we’d be much better off. China is what we used to be in manufacturing, and they are kicking everyone’s ass. Which I guess is fine with me. I’ve worked for a Korean car company, and I’ll tell you I loved it, even though it was much harder work than with American companies. They work their asses off, and they just get the damn job done, whatever it takes. No sitting around waiting for a meeting or some Union shlub to say “it’s Ok, we can do that”. I’ll tell you it’s actually FUN to work a 16 hour day and actually accompish something!

  • avatar
    AG

    Seriously, golf4me, we talk about how crappy products are that are made in China, and how we’d rather step in front of traffic than buy a Chinese made car (because that’s about as safe as driving a Chinese made car is), and you want to emulate that?

    Back in the day, doing a good job used to mean something. If the only way GM can make cars profitably is by cutting regulatory corners, than their cars aren’t worth building.

  • avatar
    factotum

    “China is what we used to be in manufacturing, and they are kicking everyone’s ass.”

    At what cost?

    Children working in factories?
    Residents say children as young as 12 have been recruited by child labor rings, equipped with fake identification cards, and transported hundreds of miles across the country to booming coastal cities, where they work 12-hour shifts to produce much of the world’s toys, clothes and electronics.”

    Rampant pollution?
    Local environmental officials have surprisingly limited authority to implement Beijing’s green regulations, as these cadres receive both their orders and their salaries from local government, which has an economic interest in shielding local industry.”

    Little regard for worker safety?
    The patients arrive every day in Chinese hospitals with disabling and fatal diseases, acquired while making products for America.

    On the sixth floor of the Guangzhou Occupational Disease and Prevention Hospital, Wei Chaihua, 44, sits on his iron-rail bed, tethered to an oxygen tank. He is dying of the lung disease silicosis, a result of making Char-Broil gas stoves sold in Utah and throughout the U.S.”

    The US used to be like that, yes, before progress was made and we started to value life over cheap goods.

  • avatar
    telrbm1

    How do we know the Chinese don’t already have their fingers in Chrysler when a private equity firm like Cerberus Capital Management doesn’t have to disclose who their investors are?

  • avatar

    @factotum: Easy with the cliches. Because TTAC exploits its Chinese workers with slave labor wages, I must hold a second job to keep us over water. My company dabbles in auto parts. This involves that I see more Chinese factories than anyone would want to. Rest assured that any Chinese parts maker who wants to deal with a joint venture or foreign firm must be TS16949 certified (ISO9002 is worthless.) I haven’t seen a single underage worker in the many factories I visit. Factories of joint ventures are built with foreign know-how according to foreign standards. Sure, you won’t find many black and yellow stripes on the floor. A stamping machine may stamp the hand of a careless worker. Environmental issues need improvement. However, it is the G7 manufacturers who have exported their pollution and their work hazards to China – along with their jobs. Sheet metal costs the same all over the world. The only way to save is wages and luxuries such as the environment.

  • avatar

    @factotum:

    At least 17 underage workers, ranging in ages from 14 to 17, were arrested the day of the raid.

    An employee sitting in a looped chain was lowered approximately 17 feet into a 21-foot deep manhole. Twenty seconds later he started gasping for air and fell from the chain seat face down into the accumulated water at the bottom of the manhole. An autopsy determined oxygen deficiency as the cause of death.

    Each year, poly vinyl chloride (PVC) plants pump some 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride — a known human carcinogen — and many other toxins into the atmosphere. In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals, the government has kept the industry’s air emissions largely unregulated.

    Guess the country? The Internet makes propaganda child’s play. This is not a war against protection of minors, safe work places, or the environment. This is a war against tired cliches.

  • avatar
    poobearer

    I guess I’d be a little paranoid about owning anything with technology from a Chinese-owned company, if that’s what GM ends up becoming:

    http://www.dailyartisan.com/news/and-now-the-manchurian-microchip/

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