Updated from 9:48 a.m. ESTGeneral Motors ( GM) struck a deal Thursday to sell a 78% stake in its commercial real-estate finance unit to a consortium of private equity buyers. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Five Mile Capital Partners and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners paid $1.5 billion in cash for the majority stake in one of GM's profitable businesses of late. GMAC Commercial Holding Corp., which will change its name to Capmark Financial Group in the second quarter of this year, also repaid its parent $7.3 billion for inter-company loans. With the loan repayments, GMAC will net nearly $9 billion from the deal. Along with the sale, Capmark closed with a syndicate of banks on a $10.75 billion loan facility. The 78% stake represents a higher portion of the commercial real estate finance business than GM initially said it planned to sell; the company said in November that it was seeking to unload a 60% stake. The planned sale of a majority stake in GMAC remains ongoing. "This is not the ultimate sale of GM's majority stake in GMAC, although we continue to believe that the broader GMAC deal is considerably more likely to occur in the near-term following the completion of this transaction," said Joseph Amaturo, analyst with Calyon Securities, in a research note. The deal is part of an attempt to free GM's profitable finance business from bad debt ratings, which it incurred because of the disastrous performance of its auto manufacturing business in recent years. GM posted a loss of $10.6 billion for 2005, and it's planning a restructuring of its North American operations that will eliminate 30,000 jobs and idle a number of manufacturing plants by 2008. On Wednesday, the company announced what will likely be a costly
"With investment-grade ratings from the three primary rating agencies and enhanced access to the capital markets, Capmark is poised to fully realize the opportunities that exist for each of its businesses," said Capmark Chief Executive Robert Feller in a statement. In this deal, GMAC will retain an equity stake of about 21% in the business, and it will invest an additional $250 million in Capmark trust preferred stock. It will also hold two seats on Capmark's 15-member board, which includes three independent directors. "GMAC is optimistic about the growth prospects for Capmark," said GMAC Chairman Eric A. Feldstein in a statement. "With improved access to cost-efficient funding, this commercial mortgage business should continue to thrive. We are expecting strong returns on the significant investment that GMAC will retain in this business. At the same time, this transaction will enable GMAC to redeploy a significant amount of capital -- almost $9 billion -- to other critical areas of our business." Dennis Dammerman, former vice chairman with General Electric ( GE) and chairman and CEO of GE Capital Corp., will lead Capmark's board of directors as chairman. Shares of GM were recently up 26 cents, or 1.2%, to $22.27.