NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors plans to sell about $13 billion in common and preferred shares as part of its initial public offering, one of the largest in U.S. history.
GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share.
That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department's 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.
But Treasury has indicated it will hold onto most of its stake for an undetermined time to avoid flooding the market with GM shares and driving down the price.
The price that Treasury eventually gets from those future sales will determine whether taxpayers make a profit on the bailout.
Some analysts estimate GM could be worth more than $45 a share when it starts trading, a price that could bring a profit for taxpayers. Other experts have doubts that it can maintain its offer price.
"If GM can't sustain its current sales momentum, share value post-IPO will plummet," said Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. "I still think the IPO is timed about a year too early; extra time is needed to reestablish credibility."
Treasury will become a minority shareholder in GM at the time of the IPO, although with just over a 40% stake, it will still remain the largest single shareholder.
In a statement, Treasury spokesman Mark Paustenbach said the government's bailout of the auto industry saved jobs and helped put the economy back on track. But he reiterated that Treasury is focused on selling down its stake and avoiding losses.
"Today's development represents another important step forward in our oft-repeated policy of exiting these investments as soon as practicable and recovering funds on behalf of the American taxpayer," Paustenbach said.
Including warrants that are held by creditors in the old GM and a union-controlled trust fund, as well as the right that the IPO underwriters have to additional shares, GM could have 1.8 billion common shares shortly after the start of trading.
The company is tentatively scheduled to start trading sometime later this month. If GM shares price in the middle of the range announced Wednesday, it would be the third largest IPO in U.S. history, behind only the $17.8 billion raised by Visa (V, Fortune 500) in March of 2008 and the $16.5 billion raised here by European utility Enel in November 1999, according to Renaissance Capital, which tracks stock offerings.
But the market for IPOs has been depressed since 2008. The largest planned IPO of the year, by insurer Liberty Mutual, was postponed in September due to weak economic and market conditions, even though it would have raised only $1.4 billion at the top of its price range.
But GM has been under pressure from its shareholders, including Treasury, to start selling shares. Treasury would like to start unwinding the ownership position it was forced to take last year during GM's reorganization.
Besides Treasury, 17.5% of shares are held by a union-controlled trust fund that will pay for health care costs of retirees, 11.7% are held by the Canadian government, which also participated in the bailout, and 10% is owed to creditors of the old GM. The creditors and the union trust fund also have warrants to purchase additional shares at certain price targets.
Ford's shares are up 50% so far this year to reach that value, as the company has been reporting steady U.S. market share gains and strong earnings.
Ford reported about a 15% gain in U.S. sales in October Wednesday, while GM sales rose only 4%. Ford also reported record third quarter earnings last month and was the only U.S. automaker in strong enough shape to avoid a bailout and bankruptcy reorganization.
However, GM benefited from going through bankruptcy, shedding much of its debt, an advantage Ford did not have. And despite market share gains by Ford over the past two years, Ford still trails GM in sales in the United States and in China, which has become the world's largest market for auto sales.
Separately Wednesday, GM also released preliminary financial results for the third quarter, saying it made between $1.9 billion and $2.1 billion, which would be the biggest profit in years for the automaker. Revenue increased to $34 billion. Full financial results in the quarter will be released Nov. 10.
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