Chuck Stevens to succeed Ammann as CFO

GM to pay first dividend in 6 years

Chuck Stevens to succeed Ammann as CFO

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DETROIT -- General Motors will pay the first quarterly dividend on its common stock in almost six years, marking another step in the recovery from its 2009 bankruptcy.

GM said its board of directors approved the 30-cent-a-share payout today. It will be payable on March 28 to all common shareholders as of March 18.

The automaker has not paid a dividend since June 2008 when it moved to save cash as losses mounted during the U.S. recession.

Separately, GM named Chuck Stevens as its new CFO to replace Dan Ammann, who last month was named GM's president. The changes took effect Wednesday, along with Mary Barra succeeding outgoing CEO Dan Akerson.

Shareholders have been pressing GM to issue a dividend for more than a year as the automaker's cash reserves pile up. Through September, GM posted 15 straight profitable quarters and had $37.3 billion in automotive liquidity and $8.4 billion in automotive debt.

"Today's General Motors is designing high-quality, world-class vehicles for our customers and delivering consistently solid financial results," Akerson said in a statement.

"The board understands that our investors should share in this success and is pleased to announce a quarterly dividend for our common stockholders."

CFO's goal

Stevens, 54, has been CFO of GM North America since January 2010, overseeing the financial operations for GM's most-profitable region.

He has been focused on boosting GM's profit margin in North America to 10 percent, one of Akerson's key financial objectives. GM North America hit a pretax profit margin of 9.3 percent in the third quarter, the highest level in two years.

Previously, Stevens worked in leadership positions for GM in China, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the company said. He began his career at Buick Motor Division in 1983.

GM also said John Stapleton, the current CFO of GM Global Manufacturing, will replace Stevens as CFO of North America.

Stapleton, 45, will report to Alan Batey, who becomes executive vice president and president of GM North America effective Jan. 15. GM said Stapleton has more than 24 years of financial experience with the company.

'Fortress balance sheet'

Since its IPO in fall of 2010 GM executives have touted the company's "fortress balance sheet," with an emphasis on low debt levels and ample liquidity. They have said that they want to have a cash cushion to invest steady levels of capital into the development of cars and trucks, even during cyclical downturns.

"This return to shareholders is consistent with our capital priorities and is an important signal of confidence in our plans for a continuing profitable future," CFO Dan Ammann said.

In 2008, GM's quarterly dividend was 25 cents a share.

GM already pays a dividend on preferred stock. Rival Ford Motor Co. resumed paying a common dividend in March 2012 after suspending it for more than 5-1/2 years. Last week, Ford boosted its quarterly dividend by 25 percent to 12.5 cents per share.

Reuters contributed to this report.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.


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