Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oops There Goes Another Billion

GM announced in an SEC filing that they're going to have to take a billion dollar charge because they didn't set aside enough money to cover pension and other labor related costs at Delphi. This Marketwatch article covers a few interesting aspects of the GM story:

"General Motors Corp., sizing up the financial strains it faces over the next few months, said Thursday that costs related to bankrupt parts-supplier Delphi Corp. will amount to $7 billion, $1 billion more than the auto maker had put aside."

Kind of ironic how the workers at the bankrupt Delphi are turning to the soon-to-be-bankrupt GM to cover their pension liabilities. Seems like they're just puttin off the inevitable (a big benefit cut in the hands of the PBGC).

"GM also said it has raised a $4.1 billion credit facility,"

How much cash are they burning these days?

"In the same filing, GM warned investors that the SEC has requested documents detailing how the company accounted for its derivatives trading activities in 2006. The company said it is complying with the request."

GM's past profitability depended on creative accounting at GMAC. Now that the mortgage mess is exposing that fraud with big losses at ResCap, it's no surprise that other portions of GM's past accounting are under question.

"GM said it also was looking into the sale of its Allison Transmission business to expand its financial safety net. Analysts said the move was warranted, given the host of uncertainties the company faces if current talks with Delphi and the UAW sour or if GM's own labor talks this fall break down."

With each sale of a proftable entity, the GM that remains becomes more and more a hopeless case. The "analysts" applaud the moves because their firms score large fees on the deals, but you won't see them telling the truth about GM's future because there's still too much profit to be milked from the company before the game finally ends.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

GM's US Sales Continue to Slide

Looking at data from page 6 of GM's latest 10-K, the steady loss of marketshare is clear. North American marketshare fell from 26.7% in to 2004 to 23.8% in 2006. It was 27.9% in 2002. Worldwide it has gone from 14.6% in 2002 to 13.5% in 2006, and those 2006 estimates are probalby too generous as GM has a history of revising down their earlier marketshare estimates in subsequent annual reports.

The falloff was sharpest from 2005 to 2006 and now 2007 appears to be even worse. According to March data released by the automakers, GM's sales were down 4% while Toyota's were up 11.7%.

This trend is consistent with a company struggling to maintain a short term appearance of solvency while writing off its long term future. GM is focused on cutting costs rather than improving product. Rather than investing in technologies to improve the value of their vehicles, GM management has steadily let their competitors pull ahead to the point where customers are realizing that there is much more value from other brands. This is shown clearly in the marketshare numbers and trends.

Monday, March 26, 2007

ResCap's CEO Resignagion Likely Means Trouble Ahead

Selling off a contolling interest in GMAC had one primary objective: Lower the cost of borrowing for GM's huge financing arm.

When GM's debt was downgraded to junk it meant that the interest GMAC had to pay on financing for the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of real estate and car loans it was making. Within GMAC, ResCap was given an extra special protected status with capital guarantees that allowed it to receive AAA credit ratings.

After a very short tenure, the CFO of ResCap is stepping down. As usual, the company is saying that it is for personal reasons, but in the coporate world the resignation of a CFO is almost a sign of rats leaving a sinking ship. ResCap includes Ditech, which was one of the most aggressive lenders around during the housing boom. Undoubtedly the loans that ResCap is now responsible for are going bad at an alarming rate. Please view this blog to see things are going in the mortgage portfolio of another aggressive lender.

As ResCap's losses mount, GMAC has to make up for missing capital to keep the credit rating alive. This in turn hurts the profitability of GM. The real estate housing collapse still has a very long way to go, and GM will continue to feel its share of the pain via GMAC and ResCap.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Is GM's Automotive Division Profitable?

The question and answers section of the most recent conference call was broken into two portions. First the analysts got to ask their questions, then the reporters. One of the reporters asked bluntly if GM made money selling cars in Q4 and if they made money selling cars in North America. It was a good question in concept (although it was easy for management to twist the numbers to show profitability in the division because of all the recent write-offs). Since a majority interest in GMAC has been sold, GM's automotive profitability becomes especially important.

In the 2004 10-K, GM reported the following #s for "Automotive and Other" division:
2002 -$146 million
2003 +$995 million (would have been negative if not for a $1.179 billion gain on sale of discontinued operations)
2004 -$89 million

Meanwhile, all the company's profits were in GMAC:
2002 +$1,870 million ($544 million mortgage profits)
2003 +$2,793 million ($1,254 million mortgage profits)
2004 +$2,913 million ($1,108 million mortgage profits)

In the 2005 10-K, Auto showed a huge loss on write-downs:
2005 -$12,816 million
while GMAC reported another big profit:
2005 +$2,356 million ($1,345 million mortgage profits)

In the 2006 10-K, Auto showed another big loss:
2006 -$3,168 million
while GMAC reported another net profit:
2006 +2,175 million

Maintaining an appearance of profitability will be essential for keeping GM's creditors happy going forward. If (and how long) they can do this will be the subject of future posts.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Negative Book Value

In GM's 2005 10-K, in the risk factors section, the following statement is made:

"In addition, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has announced that it is considering changes in the accounting rules for pensions and other postretirement benefits. The rule changes that are expected to be proposed in March 2006 would require a company to include on its balance sheet an additional net asset or net liability to reflect the funded or unfunded status, as the case may be, of its retirement plans. In light of the unrecognized losses associated with our pension and OPEB liabilities under existing accounting rules, if these expected proposed rules had been in effect as of December 31, 2005, the substantial additional liability that we would have had to include on our balance sheet would have caused our total stockholders’ equity to be negative."

The FASB went ahead with that rule change, and now GM's equity is indeed negative. See the line from the bottom, where total stockholder's equity has gone from a positive $14.653 billion to a negative $5.441 billion:

Based on the following table from GM's 2005 10-K, it could have been much worse based pension and benefit plans that appeared to be almost $70 billion underfunded with over $60 billion in unrecognized losses:

It appears that the huge employee buyout program implemented during 2006 saved the company many billions in future pension liabilities.

GM hopes to get further concessions from the union that would presumably allow them to reduce their pension liabilities and bring their equity up. On the other hand, GM's assumptions with regard to their pension plan performance may end up being too optimistic (this is how they ended up with so many unrecognized losses in the first place). Time will tell how much trouble GM's past pension plan accounting will cause for the company down the road.

On the asset side of the balance sheet, GM is including over $30 billion in deferred tax assets with $10.2 billion having been added as a result of the new pension and benefit accounting. For these to end up being of value the company either has to become highly profitable or somebody needs to buy out the company. With GMAC now out of the company's control and struggling because of its subprime lending operations, and with the company's negative equity, the stated value of deferred tax assets may have to be marked down in the future:

Will GM be able to achieve postive equity in the future?
Will GM be profitable?
Will GM go bankrupt?
You'll have to judge for yourself.