Canada to sell final 73.4 million GM shares

Move ends government ties from 2009 bailout

UPDATED: 4/6/15 10:15 pm ET - adds background

TORONTO (Bloomberg) -- Canada's federal government agreed to sell its 73.4 million shares in General Motors to Goldman Sachs in an unregistered block trade. The transaction will be complete by April 10, Canada said.

At Monday's closing price of $36.66, those GM shares would be worth about $2.69 billion.

Details will be revealed when Canada GEN Investment Corp., the entity that held the shares, reports its trade with securities regulators in the next several days, Canada said Monday in a statement.

"With today's announcement, we have eliminated a market exposure for Canadian taxpayers and returned GM to private sector ownership, having supported its continued contribution to the Canadian economy," said Joe Oliver, Canada's Minister of Finance. "As we said from the start, our investment in GM was always meant to be temporary. We never believed the Government should be a shareholder of a private sector company for an indefinite period of time."

Canada and Ontario joined with the U.S. government in financing GM's bankruptcy-court restructuring. Ontario sold its final GM shares in February as the U.S. did in a little more than a year earlier.

A UAW trust set up to pay for union retirees' medical costs remains as GM's biggest shareholder with an 8.7 percent stake.

"For the most part it's a non-event," said Joseph Phillippi, president of AutoTrends Consulting in Andover, N.J. "It's ceremonial. GM doesn't get any of the proceeds."

Protecting jobs

Canada and Ontario invested as GM filed for bankruptcy protection, taking an equity stake of about 12 percent to protect local jobs as the U.S. offered its own aid. Union officials criticized the share sale, saying it makes GM's commitment to Ontario less secure.

The number of GM employees in Canada has fallen to about 9,000 today from about 12,000 at the end of 2008, Adria MacKenzie, a GM spokeswoman, said in February.

The current job total is "consistent" with estimates given to the Canadian and Ontario Governments in 2009, she said.

The U.S. Treasury's bailout fund lost $11.2 billion on the rescue of GM, the special inspector general for the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a report to Congress in April 2014.

The U.S. invested $49.5 billion in the bailout. CEO Dan Akerson led GM's initial public offering in November 2010 at $33 a share, which raised more than $20 billion including preferred shares.

The stock's peak closing price was $41.53 in December 2013. The next month Mary Barra took over as the first female CEO of a global automaker.

She soon found her time consumed by GM's long-delayed recall of flawed small-car ignition switches now linked to 80 deaths. GM went on to call back almost 27 million vehicles for safety fixes in the U.S. alone -- a record for any automaker in a single calendar year.

GM shares rose 0.4 percent to $36.66 Monday in New York before Canada's announcement. The shares have gained 5 percent this year through Monday after falling 15 percent in 2014.

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