GM belt tightening is as much about PR as profits

General Motors’ vow to freeze some travel and other discretionary spending isn’t likely to send any Wall Street analysts rushing to tweak their profit forecasts.

GM told employees over the weekend that it’s tightening the belt to preserve cash as it gauges the fallout from the disaster in Japan.

At a company with $26.6 billion in cash and securities, and a projected $5.7 billion in free cash flow this year, savings from such a spending freeze would amount to little more than a rounding error.

But the decision is a chance for GM to show its new shareholders that it is being careful with every dime.

It’s not a bad move for a company 20 months removed from bankruptcy and one that told prospective investors just last summer that it doesn’t have a handle on its own finances. (GM recently said its financial controls are up to snuff).

Even if immaterial, it’s probably a welcome sign for investors, dealers, suppliers and anyone else who’s counting on execs at the “new GM” to run a more-disciplined, diligent company.

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