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GM shares reach 75-year low amid bankruptcy talk

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March 7, 2009
— General Motors Corp. shares fell to their lowest point in more than 75 years Friday, as investors fretted that the ailing automaker may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection despite government help.

GM shares hit a low of $1.27 in late morning trading before rebounding to close down 41 cent, or 22 percent, at $1.45.


The low point matched a low set May 4, 1933, according to the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago. The price is adjusted for splits and other changes.


GM said in a statement Friday that it has not changed its intention to avoid a bankruptcy filing, and that an out-of-court restructuring remains its best option to survive the worst auto sales climate in 27 years.


The Detroit automaker lost $30.9 billion last year, is living on $13.4 billion in U.S. government loans, and is seeking up to $30 billion. GM is also hoping to get help from other countries. The automaker's Adam Opel AG subsidiary wants to secure at least $3.8 billion from the German government.


"As a prudent business measure, the company has analyzed various bankruptcy scenarios," GM said in its statement. "However, the company firmly believes an in-court restructuring would carry with it tremendous costs and risks, the most significant being a dramatic deterioration of revenue due to lost sales."


GM said in its annual report Thursday that it's on the edge of bankruptcy and won't be able to avoid it unless it gets more government money and successfully executes its restructuring plan. The company's auditors said they had doubts about whether GM can overcome its staggering losses and generate enough cash to stay in business.


Even if the automaker doesn't file for bankruptcy protection, analysts have said that a government bailout will also dilute the automaker's shares to the point that they are nearly worthless. Part of the company's restructuring plan is to get bondholders and the United Auto Workers union to accept new GM stock in exchange for debt and cash contributions to a retiree health care trust fund.


Friday's stock drop comes as members of the Obama administration's auto task force continue to meet with GM's stakeholders and weigh their options. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers planned to convene the task force at the White House on Friday to discuss the status of GM and Chrysler LLC's restructuring plans.


Members of the task force met Thursday with representatives of GM's bondholders, along with the chief executive of Fiat Group SpA, whose company wants to form an alliance with Chrysler.


In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, GM Chief Financial Officer Ray Young said GM is making progress to renegotiate its $28 billion in unsecured debt with bondholders, with both sides doing due diligence.


The company also is negotiating with the UAW to change their agreement on the retiree health care fund. GM owes $10 billion to the fund this year and next, and has discussed changing the timing of the payments.


"We're moving the ball up the field," Young said. "We don't need Chapter 11 in order to get these restructurings done."


The government has the option of recalling its loans if GM and Chrysler don't have signed deals for the debt restructuring and other concessions from its stakeholders by March 31.


Members of the auto task force are scheduled to meet with GM and Chrysler executives in the Detroit area Monday and tour the companies' facilities. Both companies are likely to show off plans for new rechargeable electric vehicles that are due out sometime next year.



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