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Published: Friday, 4/17/2009

GM CEO says bankruptcy probable but not preferred

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said Friday that a bankruptcy filing is "probable" because of the restructuring goals GM must meet to get more government loans, but that isn't the company's preferred option.

In a conference call with reporters, Henderson said GM is working on two parallel plans: one that involves bankruptcy and one that doesn't.

"Contingency planning is under way," he said. "We are on several tracks."

Henderson also said GM will need more government aid sometime in the second quarter, although the timing has yet to be decided. In its viability plan filed Feb. 17, the company said it would need $4.6 billion in the quarter, and that hasn't changed, he said.

"At this point, it would be premature to say that there has been an approval for further funding, at least from a GM perspective," Henderson said.

GM has already received $13.4 billion in government loans, and it must meet strict requirements to cut labor costs and debt by a June 1 deadline. Henderson said the company will be prepared to file for bankruptcy if it is unable to reach those goals out of court.

The decision to file for bankruptcy would be made with the Treasury Department and GM's board of directors, but the government is not pressuring GM to file, Henderson said.

"I felt several weeks ago that it would be more probable that we would need to go through a bankruptcy process," he told reporters. "I certainly feel that way. That continues today. But I wouldn't be able to hazard a guess as to what the probabilities would be."

If GM does file for bankruptcy, Henderson said speed is important. GM would seek agreements with creditors and union before filing, or go through a fast in-court process.

"It's all about speed," he said. "This environment is not helpful for us."

Henderson said GM has been focused on rebuilding its viability strategy so it hasn't yet launched intensive discussions with its bondholders. Talks with the United Auto Workers, he said, are second in line to Chrysler LLC, which faces an April 30 deadline to restructure and forge an alliance with Italy's Fiat Group SpA.

Henderson emphasized that GM's restructuring plan calls for the automaker to keep four core brands Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick adding that GMC and Buick are highly profitable for the company.

He also said the company will not sell its ACDelco parts division, despite having potential buyers.

"It's a highly profitable business for us, it's creating good, strong cash flow," Henderson said. "Our conclusion was that we weren't going to get the value for the business. We'd rather keep it and grow it."

Henderson also said the company's April sales were "OK," but he did not elaborate.



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