GM CFO: Taxpayer profit on bailout not certain

By Chris Isidore, senior writer


NEW YORK -- General Motors' new chief financial officer backtracked on a forecast by the company's boss in January that taxpayers will make a profit on GMs $50 billion bailout by the federal government.

Chris Liddell, who joined the company in January from Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500), told a group of reporters in Detroit Tuesday that the company is still committed to repaying a $7 billion loan that was made out of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. GM has already paid back $1.4 billion to the government and is set to repay the rest by June.

But the majority of the government's investment in GM is tied up in stock held by the Treasury Department. Liddell said there are too many variables to predict if the government will get that money back.

For one, GM has yet to even file for an initial public offering of its stock. Once the shares start trading again, it's unclear how the stock will do or when Treasury will sell its 60% stake in GM. The company has said it is looking to go public either later this year or next year, depending on market conditions.

Liddell is being far more cautious than GM CEO Ed Whitacre, who told reporters and members of Congress at the annual auto show in Detroit in January that the government will "make a lot of money" on the GM bailout without having to wait very long.

GM's stock would have to be worth about $67 billion for taxpayers to get back all of their money. That may be a difficult target for GM to reach once it goes public.

Rival Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500), whose stock has soared nearly 500% in the last year as it returned to profitability and improved its market share, has a market value of only $46 billion. To top of page

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