05-07-2009, 03:00 AM
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GM projected to post another deep loss as U.S. deadline nears
DETROIT -- General Motors is expected to report a deep loss on Thursday for the first quarter in its last earnings report before the deadline for a restructuring and a potential bankruptcy filing.
GM, surviving on $15.4 billion in U.S. loans, is facing a government-imposed June 1 deadline to reach agreements to overhaul its operations and cut more than $40 billion in debt.
The quarter also coincided with GM's failure to win new federal backing for a turnaround plan that the Obama administration's auto task force concluded was too slow-moving and too cautious to succeed.
GM said in a statement on its Web site that global vehicle sales fell 28 percent in the first quarter, led by a 47 percent decline in North America.
Analysts, on average, expect GM to post a first-quarter loss of $11.05 per share before items, far wider than the 62 cent per share loss a year earlier,
Five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News estimated the net loss at $11.34 a share, equivalent to $6.9 billion, or more than double the $3.3 billion loss from a year earlier. A first-quarter loss would be the seventh straight for GM, which hasn't had an annual profit since 2004.
Revenue is expected to fall by about half to $21 billion, according to Reuters Estimates, which reflects sharply lower production.
Beyond the numbers
Creditors are looking beyond GM's results, focusing on whether it succeeds in winning debt concessions from its bondholders and the UAW, analysts said.
Absent those concessions, GM CEO Fritz Henderson, who assumed that job more than a month ago from the ousted Rick Wagoner, has said the automaker will file for bankruptcy.
Even if GM clinches debt restructuring deals, the automaker said this week it could issue up to 60 billion new shares to pay off its debt to the government, bondholders and the UAW.
That flood of new shares would leave current GM investors with 1 percent of the restructured company and take the value of the stock to less than 2 cents.
GM shares fell 10.3 percent on Wednesday to $1.66.
"We would like to see actions that will ultimately position GM to be a smaller but profitable automaker along with details on how it will achieve this," S&P equity analyst Efraim Levy said in a statement. "Unfortunately for GM current shareholders, we do not expect them to meaningfully share in any recovery."
GM was able to keep operating in the first quarter with $13.4 billion in aid from the Bush administration. In April, the automaker drew another $2 billion and has said it would expect to need another $2.6 billion from the U.S. Treasury before the June 1 deadline. That would take GM's debt to the U.S. government to $18 billion.
Request to creditors
GM has asked its three major creditor groups to write off at least $43 billion in debt in exchange for ownership stakes in a restructured company.
GM bondholders, who are owed $27 billion, have also been offered new stock in exchange for writing off debt in a bond exchange the automaker launched last week.
GM is targeting a reduction of at least $24 billion, or 90 percent, of its bond debt under the plan and has warned that it could be forced into bankruptcy if that cannot be achieved.
Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson said the success of GM's smaller rival Chrysler LLC in winning approval to sell most of its assets out of bankruptcy quickly made it more likely that GM would follow it into court protection.
Obama administration officials have pledged that bankruptcy proceedings for both Chrysler and GM would be completed within 60 days, a process they have compared to a "quick rinse" of liabilities.
Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who is overseeing Chrysler's bankruptcy case, on Tuesday ruled that the government's plan could proceed over the objections of some creditors.
"The ruling likely means that 'New Chrysler' can emerge in 60 days, making a similar 'quick rinse' for GM bondholders appear more likely in our view," Barclays' Johnson said in a note to clients on Wednesday.