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Could GM Go Public This Year?

DETROIT - General Motors , long non-committal about the timing of its IPO, may be eyeing an offering late this year.

Meeting with reporters in Detroit, CFO Chris Liddell said that while no timetable exists, an IPO could happen in the second half of 2010 as a result of the automaker's recent financial progress.

"His focus is on making sure we are ready when conditions are right," said GM spokeswoman Renee Rashid-Merem. "His point is it will be at the right time. He didn't exclude late this year, but it depends on what's going on in the auto market as well as the economy."

Liddell said that GM has a "reasonable chance" to make money this year, which would be its first profitable year since 2004.

At the moment, GM is benefitting from both a recovering automobile market and its success in shedding costs in bankruptcy court, where it also reduced debt to $17 billion from $55 billion. At the end of the third quarter, GM had about $42 billion in cash and $29 billion in debt and preferred stock.

Christopher Liddell
Christopher Liddell, GM CFO

Investment bankers, as well as GM shareholders and executives, must positively drool when they look at the market performance of the company's closest competitor. Ford (F - Get Report) shares rose 335% in 2009, and have risen 34% this year. Some of Ford's success may be coming at GM's expense, and certainly some is coming at Toyota's (TM - Get Report), but a rising tide lifts all boats. Ford's market cap is about $47 billion.

Not to say that political calculations will enter in to the decision on the IPO timing, but the Obama administration has a good shot to come out of this looking smart. It is on track to save an iconic major employer, avoid taking over the GM pension plan and get back much of a $50 billion loan, for which it received a 60.8% share in GM.

Other major shareholders are the Canadian government, with 11.7% in return for a $9 million investment, and the United Auto Workers union, which has about 17.5%. The owners of GM's public debt got a 10% stake plus warrants for another 15%.

Losers will include owners of Owners of Motors Liquidation Co. (MTLQQ.PK), because they will get nothing.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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