15 January 2009

GM Cuts 2009 US Sales Outlook to 27 Year Low - Wall Street Rallies

A grim outlook from General Motors today as it continues to attempt to wring concessions and donations from anyone and everyone.

The market rallied after this news. If this is confusing, read this blog entry from earlier today on the technical state of the SP500 futures.

Its reassuring to see that the economic carnage has not made the banks and hedge funds too glum to engage in the usual option expiry market manipulation. They'll never learn. Keep your powder dry because there are some rough seas dead ahead.

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly. " Proverbs 26:11

GM Says U.S. Auto Sales May Tumble to 27-Year Low on Economy
By Jeff Green

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp. cut its estimate for 2009 U.S. industrywide auto sales to 10.5 million units, a total that would be the lowest in 27 years, as a worsening economy crimps demand.

The new outlook replaces a projected range of 10.5 million to 12 million vehicles, GM said in slides for a Deutsche Bank AG conference today in Detroit. Global sales will fall to 57.5 million autos from 67.1 million last year, GM said.

GM is using the sales estimates to craft a proposal to cut costs, revamp operations and show it can repay $13.4 billion in Treasury Department loans. A weakening economy may force the biggest U.S. automaker to seek additional government funding after it completes the viability plan due March 31.

“We’re on track,” Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner told analysts. “We’re confident GM will come through this a stronger company.”

Wagoner said this week that the loans were sufficient for now and that he would review GM’s needs at the end of this quarter. He joined Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson and Chief Financial Officer Ray Young at the Deutsche Bank meeting.

GM gained 5 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.90 at 2:32 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Global economic growth may slow to 0.5 percent this year from 2.3 percent, GM said today.

The U.S. recession is ravaging consumers’ auto purchases, sending deliveries plummeting to 13.2 million vehicles in 2008 after an average of about 16 million annually during the past decade. U.S. job losses last year were the worst since 1945.

Industrywide sales of 10.5 million vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market would be the lowest level since the 10.36 million units of 1982, according to research firm Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The total in 1981 was 10.6 million.

Union Workers, Bondholders

GM is seeking concessions from its largest union and is chopping debt in half because the government can call the loans unless the company shows progress in reshaping itself by the March deadline. The Detroit-based automaker plans to drop or de- emphasize half of its brands and seeks to cull 1,700 dealers from its total of 6,400.

It’s premature to discuss how GM might work with bondholders to win their assent in reducing debt, Wagoner said this week. Government loan conditions require GM to cut its unsecured public debt by at least two thirds in an exchange with bondholders for equity or other methods.

The debt exchange is designed to pare $27.5 billion in unsecured debt to about $9.2 billion in a swap for equity, Young said.

Health-Fund Costs

GM also needs to reduce its obligations to a union retiree health fund to $10.2 billion, a 50 percent trim, in a separate equity swap, Young said. About $14.1 billion in other debt won’t be affected.

After saying it would run short of operating cash by the end of 2008 without an infusion of financial aid, GM received the first $4 billion in loans on Dec. 31 from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The money is being used to pay bills, mostly to the automaker’s 3,000 suppliers.

An additional $5.4 billion is due this month. Should Congress agree to release a second $350 billion in TARP funds, GM will get $4 billion more in February. An initial progress report must be presented to the Treasury Department by Feb. 17.

The loans are secured by almost all of GM’s available unsecured assets and as a secondary lien against other assets already secured, Young said today. GM also plans to draw $1 billion in Treasury loans granted to the automaker as part of a $6 billion bailout of the GMAC LLC finance unit.