GM to cut jobs, bonuses, and dividend

Moves will raise $15 billion in liquidity by end of 2009

GM CEO Rick Wagoner speaks today at a press conference as COO Fritz Henderson and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz listen. Photo credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters
UPDATED: 7/15/08 4:22 pm EDT DETROIT -- General Motors today said it will improve its finances through 2009 by laying off salaried workers, making more cuts in truck production, suspending its dividend and borrowing at least $2 billion as it rides out its worst U.S. sales in a decade.

Those moves, combined with several other initiatives, are expected to improve GM’s cash position by $15 billion through the end of 2009.

“We are responding aggressively to the challenges of today’s U.S. auto market,” CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement. “We will continue to take the steps necessary to align our business structure with the lower vehicle sales volumes and shifts in sales mix. We remain committed to bringing to market great products that target changing consumer preferences for more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

“Today's actions, combined with those of the past several years, position us not only to survive this tough period in the U.S., but to come out of it as a lean, strong and successful company,” Wagoner said.

GM said at the end of the first quarter 2008 it had liquidity of $23.9 billion, with access to an additional $7 billion in credit. While the automaker believes it has enough liquidity through 2008, GM said the actions announced today will cushion it against a prolonged U.S. downturn.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker was compelled to cut costs and raise capital because of a deepening slump in U.S. auto sales. Through the first half of the year, GM’s total U.S. light vehicle sales are off 16.3 percent.

GM shares fluctuated on the news before closing at $9.84 a share, up 4.9 percent or 46 cents. GM shares traded between $8.81 and $10.08.

Work force changes

GM said it will save $1.5 billion, or 20 percent of its cash costs, in 2009 through layoffs and changes in benefits to salaried employees and executives.

In addition to an unspecified number of salaried worker layoffs, GM said it will eliminate health care coverage for retired U.S. salaried retirees over 65, effective Jan. 1. Those workers will receive a pension increase to help offset losses. In addition, no salaried employees will receive compensation increases in the United States or Canada through 2009.

GM said its executives “will have a significant reduction in their cash compensation” this year and will receive no cash bonuses in 2008. The move will result in a 75 to 84 percent reduction in executives’ cash compensation opportunity, GM says.

The automaker also said it will defer $1.7 billion in payment to its union-led health care benefit trust for hourly retirees. Those payments had been scheduled for this year and next. Establishing the fund, called a voluntary employee beneficiary association, was a key part of the 2007 contract agreement with the union.

More cuts to trucks

GM said it will reduce truck capacity by 300,000 units through 2009, resulting in cost reductions of about $2.5 billion. Half of the production cuts will be achieved by speeding up announced cuts in truck production, GM said.

Last month, GM said it would cease production at three North American truck plants in 2009 or 2010. Those plants were the Oshawa, Ontario, truck assembly plant to close in 2009; the Moraine, Ohio, truck plant in 2010; and the truck line in its Janesville, Wis., plant by 2010.

The Oshawa truck plant builds the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. The Moraine plant makes the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X SUVs. And the Janesville truck line makes the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon SUVs.

“The actions announced today are difficult decisions, but necessary to respond to the current auto market conditions,” Wagoner said in the statement.

GM’s U.S. sales fell 18.2 percent in June compared with June 2007 and plummeted 16.3 percent during the first half compared with the same period a year ago.

Truck sales fell 22.2 percent during the first half, while car sales dropped 8.2 percent.

Reacting to the plunge in truck sales, GM said a major part of $1.5 billion in reduced spending is tied to delaying the development of large pickups and SUVs, as well as V-8 engines.

GM said it will focus more of its spending on developing smaller engines and more fuel-efficient powertrains.

Cash plan

The automaker will make several moves to improve its financial position.

GM said it will improve liquidity by $800 million through 2009 by suspending future dividends on common stock.

Another $4 billion to $7 billion in liquidity will be raised through a combination of financing and asset sales, which could include a sale of the Hummer brand. GM thinks the sale of Hummer’s assets would generate $2 billion to $4 billion in liquidity.

Wagoner said June 3 that GM would review the brand and consider all options, including a possible sale. He has denied reports as to whether other GM brands, including Saturn, would be put up for sale.

The automaker has faced speculation about its liquidity in recent weeks as its stock price tumbled below $10 to the lowest point in more than 50 years. Analysts raised concerns over whether the company would resort to bankruptcy.

Wagoner last week told reporters GM is not considering bankruptcy.

“Even under conservative planning scenarios, GM is well positioned to withstand the U.S. market downturn and emerge a stronger company,” Wagoner said today. “We have a solid position in the rapidly growing emerging markets, a global operating framework that allows us to respond to changes in the U.S. market, a commitment to technology leadership, and an ever stronger and competitive product lineup.”

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz sought to further dispel talk of bankruptcy.

“I am getting to be an old veteran at reading about my company being eminently bankrupt,” Lutz said in a conference call with analysts and reporters. “You’d think at some point, the analysts would learn that car companies don’t die that fast -- especially not car companies with the substance, the drive, the technological capability and the financial resources of General Motors.”

GM says it expects its U.S. market share to drop to about 21 percent. The automaker anticipates a significant second-quarter loss, citing strikes by one of its top suppliers, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., and dozens of local union strikes that stalled production this year.

GM said it has pegged industrywide U.S. light-vehicle sales of 14 million units in 2008 and 2009. That’s down from a projection of the mid-to-high-15 million range that GM made in April after reporting a $3.25 billion loss in the first quarter.

PRESS RELEASE: GM to Bolster Liquidity by $15 Billion through 2009

* Operating and related actions to generate approximately $10 billion in cash improvements

* More than 20 percent reduction in salaried employment cash costs

* Dividend on common stock suspended

* Asset sales and capital market activities to raise $4-7 billion of additional liquidity

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) today announced it is taking further steps to adapt its business to rapidly changing market conditions, marked by the weak U.S. economy, record high fuel prices, shifts in consumer vehicle preferences, and the lowest U.S. industry sales volumes in a decade.

"We are responding aggressively to the challenges of today's U.S. auto market," said GM Chairman and CEO, Rick Wagoner. "We will continue to take the steps necessary to align our business structure with the lower vehicle sales volumes and shifts in sales mix. We remain committed to bringing to market great products that target changing consumer preferences for more fuel-efficient vehicles." Wagoner noted that 11 of GM's 13 most recent major U.S. product launches, and 18 of its next 19 launches, are cars and crossovers, which are key growth areas.

"Today's actions, combined with those of the past several years, position us not only to survive this tough period in the U.S., but to come out of it as a lean, strong and successful company," Wagoner said.

For liquidity planning purposes, GM is using assumptions of U.S. light vehicle industry volumes of 14.0 million units in 2008-2009 which are significantly below trend. Other planning assumptions include lower U.S. share of approximately 21 percent and continued elevated average oil price estimates ranging from $130 to $150 per barrel by 2009. Based on those assumptions, GM is taking actions to further reduce structural cost, and generate cash, with the goal of maximizing liquidity.

At the end of the first quarter 2008, GM had liquidity of $23.9 billion, with access to U.S. credit facilities of an additional $7 billion. While the company has ample liquidity to meet its 2008 funding requirements, it is taking additional measures to bolster liquidity to protect against a prolonged U.S. downturn. The actions include a combination of operating and related actions, as well as asset sales and capital market activities. The cumulative impact on cash through 2009 is projected to be approximately $15 billion.

Operating and Other Actions

Through a number of internal operating changes and other actions, GM expects to generate approximately $10 billion of cumulative cash improvements by the end of 2009, versus original plans.

* GM plans further salaried headcount reductions in the U.S. and Canada in the 2008 calendar year, which will be achieved through normal attrition, early retirements, mutual separation programs and other separation tools. In addition, health care coverage for U.S. salaried retirees over 65 will be eliminated, effective January 1, 2009. Affected retirees and surviving spouses will receive a pension increase from GM's over funded U.S. salaried plan to help offset costs of Medicare and supplemental coverage. And there will be no new base compensation increases for U.S. and Canadian salaried employees for the remainder of 2008 and 2009.

Beyond these moves, which also impact GM executives, additional actions are being taken. There will be no annual discretionary cash bonuses for the company's executive group in 2008. With the elimination of the annual cash bonus, combined with GM's long-term incentives which are driven by GM stock price performance to assure alignment with its stockholders, GM's executive group will have a significant reduction in their cash compensation opportunity for 2008. For the company's top executive officers, it represents a reduction in their cash compensation opportunity of 75 to 84 percent.

These benefit changes, salaried headcount reductions and other related savings will result in an estimated reduction in cash costs of more than 20 percent, or $1.5 billion in 2009.

* Additional structural cost reductions of approximately $2.5 billion are expected in GM North America (GMNA). The reductions will be partially achieved through further adjustments in truck capacity and related component, stamping and powertrain capacity in response to lower U.S. industry volume. Truck capacity is expected to be reduced by 300,000 units by the end of 2009, half of which is from acceleration of prior announced actions, and half from new capacity actions.

In addition, GM will reduce and consolidate sales and marketing budgets, with a focus on protecting launch products and brand advertising. Engineering spending in 2008 and 2009 will be held at 2006-2007 levels, substantially lower than original plans. These operating actions, combined with the benefits of the 2007 GM-UAW labor agreement, are targeted to reduce North American structural cost from $33.2 billion in 2007 to approximately $26-27 billion in 2010, a reduction of $6-7 billion.

* GM is revising its capital spending plan and reducing approximately $1.5 billion in expenditures versus prior plans. Capital expenditures are now estimated to total $7 billion in 2009 versus prior plans of $8.5 billion (these figures do not include the $1 billion in capital spending planned in both 2008 and 2009 in China, which is self-funded by the GM joint ventures, to support growth in that market). A major part of the reductions is related to the delay of the next generation large pickup and SUV program, as well as V-8 engine development and associated capacity.

Spending for non-product programs will also be significantly reduced, while powertrain spending will be increased to support the development of alternative propulsion and fuel economy technologies and small displacement engines. The revised 2009 capital spending plan is higher than the average capital expenditures in 2005-2007, excluding large pickup and SUV-related spending. Excluding China, GM expects capital expenditures to run in the $7-7.5 billion range beyond 2009.

* Aggressive actions are being taken to improve working capital by approximately

$2 billion in North America and Europe, primarily related to the reduction of raw material, work-in-progress and finished goods inventory levels as well as lean inventory practices at parts warehouses.

* GM will defer approximately $1.7 billion of payments that had been scheduled to be made to a temporary asset account over the balance of 2008 and 2009 for the establishment of the new UAW VEBA.

* The GM Board of Directors has decided to suspend future dividends on common stock, effective immediately, which is expected to improve liquidity by approximately $800 million through 2009.

Asset Sales and Financing Activities

In addition to the operating changes and other actions, GM expects to raise additional liquidity of $4-7 billion through asset sales and financing activities.

* GM is undertaking a broad global assessment of its assets for possible sale or monetization, which is expected to generate approximately $2-4 billion of additional liquidity. The company believes there is significant liquidity potential from asset sales, without impacting the strategic direction of the company. Outside advisors are currently engaged in evaluating alternatives. A strategic analysis of the Hummer brand is underway, and GM is continuing to focus on profit improvement initiatives across all remaining GM brands.

* GM will continue to opportunistically access global markets to raise additional liquidity. The company is initially targeting at least $2-3 billion of financing. The company has gross unencumbered assets of over $20 billion, which could support a significant secured debt offering, or multiple offerings, that would far exceed the initial target. Examples of such assets include stock of foreign subsidiaries, brands, stake in GMAC, and real estate.

Actions outlined today comprehend the anticipated impact of second quarter results, which the company plans to announce in the near future. GM anticipates it will report a significant second quarter loss, driven in part by the previously disclosed negative impact of the American Axle and local union strikes in North America, as well as the continued weakness in the U.S. auto market and adverse vehicle segment mix.

In addition, the company expects to record significant charges or expenses related to its previously announced hourly attrition program in the U.S., the recently announced North American truck capacity actions, valuation of GMAC stock, lease assets, Delphi recoveries, the American Axle settlement, the Canadian labor contract, and others.

GM is highly confident that the initiatives announced today, in conjunction with the current cash position and its $4-5 billion of committed U.S. credit lines, will provide the company with ample liquidity to meet its operational needs through 2009.

"The actions announced today are difficult decisions, but necessary to respond to the current auto market conditions," said Wagoner. "Even under conservative planning scenarios, GM is well-positioned to withstand the U.S. market downturn and emerge a stronger company. We have a solid position in the rapidly growing emerging markets, a global operating framework that allows us to respond to changes in the U.S. market, a commitment to technology leadership, and an ever stronger and competitive product line-up."

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