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Published: Wednesday, 7/1/2009

Government won t fund GM after July 10, official says

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK A senior member of President Barack Obama s auto task force testified Wednesday that the U.S. government will not continue to fund General Motors Corp. s operations if the automaker doesn t get approval to sell its assets to a new company within the next 10 days.

We have no intention to further fund this company if the sale order is not entered by July 10, Harry Wilson, one of the Treasury Department officials overseeing GM s restructuring, said while being cross-examined by an attorney for a group of GM bondholders opposing the sale.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker s government-backed plan for a quick exit from Chapter 11 hinges on the sale plan, which would allow it to leave behind many of the costs and liabilities that have made the company unprofitable in the past.

The Detroit-based automaker, whose June 1 filing for bankruptcy protection was the fourth-largest in U.S. history, is hoping to avoid a lengthy court battle over the sale. Last month, objections from bondholders and other groups dragged out rival Chrysler LLC s hearing on its sale for three days. This is day two of the GM hearing.

After Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler s sale was approved by the bankruptcy court, the bondholder and consumer groups appealed the decision all the way up to the Supreme Court before it ultimately went through and Chrysler subsequently emerged from Chapter 11 as a new company.

Hundreds of parties including bondholders, unions, state officials, consumer groups and individuals have filed objections to GM s plan, threatening to hold up its sale as well.

As part of a deal brokered with the auto task force, the U.S. government will get a 60 percent stake in the new company in exchange for the billions in tax dollars it has pumped into GM over the past several months in order to keep it afloat.

The Canadian government, which has also contributed billions in aid, will get a 12.5 percent stake while the United Auto Workers union will take a 17.5 percent share to fund its health care obligations. Unsecured bondholders receive the remaining 10 percent.

Existing GM shareholders are expected to be wiped out.

The remaining pieces of the company, including some closed plants, will become the Old GM and be liquidated.

GM hopes to emerge as a leaner company, less burdened by debt and labor costs as it faces a severe recession that has sapped car and truck sales. Automakers, which are due to report June U.S. sales on Wednesday, have seen sales fall 37 percent over the first five months of the year.

The sale hearing, which drew hundreds of attorneys, picketing retirees and others to a Manhattan courthouse, kicked off on Tuesday with testimony from GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson, who also cautioned that the automaker s plan could fall apart if the sale did not go through by July 10.

Testimony from Henderson and other GM restructuring officials dragged on for several hours as the many attorneys representing various objectors took their turns at the podium.

The parties trying to block the sale include groups and several individuals with product-related liability claims against the company who oppose the sale because people with pending claims against GM will be forced to seek compensation from Old GM, where there will likely be nothing left to pay their claims.

Meanwhile, a group of three of GM s unsecured bondholders are objecting to the sale, claiming that they re entitled to more in exchange for their investments in the company.

And a trio of labor unions say that their retirees stand to lose health care benefits if the sale goes through as approved. Unlike the UAW, which brokered a deal for a stake in the company, those unions say they won t have anything to pay for retiree health care.



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