News & Current Affairs

July 10, 2009

Leaner GM emerges from bankruptcy

Filed under: Business News, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 7:01 pm

Leaner GM emerges from bankruptcy

General Motors (GM) says it has emerged from bankruptcy protection after creating a “new GM” made up of the carmaker’s best assets.

GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said it was the beginning of a “new era”.

The leaner GM will own four key brands including Cadillac and will be 61% owned by the US government.

Mr Henderson said negotiations were continuing “around the clock” to conclude a deal to sell GM Europe, which includes Opel and Vauxhall.

Mr Henderson said that GM would take the “intensity, decisiveness and speed” of the bankruptcy process and apply it to the new company.

“We will be profitable, we will repay our loans as soon as possible and our cars and trucks will be among the best in the world,” he said.

A smaller GM is being created with a reduced workforce, smaller dealer network and less debt.

‘Cautiously optimistic’

Industry analysts interpreted the short timeframe of the bankruptcy as a good sign.

GM BRANDS
1958 Cadillac Eldorado
BRANDS STAYING
Chevrolet
GMC
Cadillac
Buick
BRANDS GOING
Pontiac*
Saturn#
Saab#
Hummer#
Opel#
Vauxhall#
*= to be discontinued/# = to be sold

“It is the smaller, leaner, tougher, better cost-focused GM,” said George Magliano, an automotive analyst with consulting firm IHS Global Insight.

“But they still have to deal with the problems that they faced longer-term.”

Analysts argue that GM will need to change what it offers consumers and produce more cutting-edge vehicles.

“I’m still cautiously optimistic – they still need to put a product out there that everyone is excited about purchasing,” said Pete Hastings, analyst at Morgan Keegan.

“The challenge in the future is how to approach a marketplace that has been burned by GM,” he added.

The firm lost its title as the world’s largest vehicle-maker in January.

Toyota sold 8.97 million vehicles in 2008, while GM’s global sales had dropped to 8.35 million vehicles.

The new GM will operate with 27,000 fewer US employees and operate 13 fewer US car plants compared with last year.

It will operate the strongest parts of the old company, with only its Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC brands remaining. Others such as Hummer and Saab are being sold off.

The company’s logo will remain the same; blue with white GM letters underlined.

Loan repayment

RECENT ROAD TO GM BANKRUPTCY
Feb 2008: GM posts $38.7bn loss for 2007 and plans to cut 74,000 union jobs
Sept 2008: GM has 100th anniversary
Dec 2008: US state offers $13.3bn in loans to GM and Chrysler; Canada offers $3.3bn
Feb 2009:GM posts $31bn loss for 2008
March 2009: The White House requests a new viability plan from GM and calls for boss Rick Wagoner to resign
May 2009: Reaches deals with US and Canadian unions. GM bondholders approve restructuring
June 2009: GM files for bankruptcy
July 2009: GM emerges from bankruptcy

GM said it planned to repay its government loans before the current 2015 deadline.

The firm is getting $60bn (£37.3bn) in financing from the US Treasury, which gives the US government a 61% share in the new GM, while the United Auto Workers union will have 17.5%.

Canada’s government will have a 12% share and GM bondholders will own about 10% in the new company.

GM said it hoped to float the company on the stock exchange again “as soon as practical”.

The US government has said it does not want to be involved in the day-to-day running of the carmaker.

The company also said it was exploring a partnership with online auction site eBay to make it easier for customers to buy its cars.

Rocky road ahead

GM filed for bankruptcy protection on 1 June, saying it would be forced to liquidate if the plan was not approved.

The plan was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and GM’s 40-day bankruptcy ended two days earlier than that of its cross-town rival Chrysler.

However, it is unlikely to be smooth sailing for the two carmakers.

US car sales have been hit hard as the financial crisis has made it harder to get credit and made consumers reluctant to make big purchases.

During the past six months, car sales in the US have fallen by more than 30%, while in Japan they have declined 20%.

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September 26, 2008

Bank giant HSBC axes 1,100 jobs

Bank giant HSBC axes 1,100 jobs

HSBC hopes the cuts will allow it to weather the storm on financial markets

Banking giant HSBC is to axe 1,100 jobs worldwide, blaming the current financial turmoil for the decision.

About half of the cuts, which will affect back room jobs at its global banking and markets operation, will take place in the UK.

HSBC employs about 335,000 people around the world.

Last month, HSBC said half year profits fell 28% to $10.2bn (£5.2bn), as it was forced to write-off $14bn from bad debts in the US and asset write-downs.

Meanwhile, pre-tax profits fell 35% to $2.1bn during the same period.

An HSBC spokesman said the firm had opted to reduce its workforce, “because of market conditions and the economic environment, and our cautious outlook for 2009”.

Many of the job-losses will be at the headquarters of HSBC’s investment banking division, which are in London’s Canary Wharf.

Banks around the world have been coming under increased pressure from the credit crisis currently affecting financial markets.

The problems have forced governments to step in and boost money markets as well as bail out a number of companies.

Earlier this year, the UK government had to buy mortgage lender Northern Rock, while in the US lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been rescued as well as insurer AIG and investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

Do you work for HSBC? Are you concerned by the proposed job-cuts? Send us your comments

September 17, 2008

Investors edgy as US stocks fall

Investors edgy as US stocks fall

A trader reacts to news in the Philippines

Investors are concerned that financial markets will remain volatile.

US stock markets sank in early trade on fears the bailout of insurance giant AIG would not be enough to dispel the gloom engulfing the financial world.

AIG’s rescue and a potential takeover of UK lender HBOS had earlier boosted confidence in Asia and Europe.

But markets were volatile as nervous investors tried to make sense of the dramatic events that have unfolded in recent days.

The widely watched Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.9% at 10,849.

Top UK mortgage lender HBOS, which has faced heavy selling this week, fell as much as 50% before recovering after it emerged that it was in advanced talks to be taken over by Lloyds TSB.

HBOS shares were down 13% at 160 pence in London, the biggest faller in the FTSE 100, after being the top gainer at one point.

It has been a tumultuous week on financial markets, with significant changes in the financial landscape.

Key events on Wednesday included:

  • Beleaguered HBOS in merger talks with Lloyds TSB after a steep fall in its share price
  • US insurance giant AIG being bailed out by the US government
  • Volatile stock markets as global investors remain nervous
  • Trading on the Russian stock exchange being suspended
  • Barclays snapping up key assets from Lehman Brothers after its bankruptcy

I don’t think anyone has got any or much confidence in market direction for more than a few days
Darren Winder, Cazenove

The FTSE 100 index of top UK shares was down 0.48% at 5,001.4, reversing earlier gains, with some banking shares hard hit.

Shares in Barclays were up 9.8%, Lloyds TSB climbed 7.9% while Royal Bank of Scotland was down 2.6%.

Topsy-turvy trade

Trade is likely to remain rocky amid concern that financial system instability will continue after the dramatic events of the past few days.

“I don’t think anyone has got any or much confidence in market direction for more than a few days,” said Darren Winder, a strategist at Cazenove.

AIG’s bail-out follows the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers, which caused share prices to plummet across the world’s financial markets.

Another investment bank, Merrill Lynch, has been sold off to Bank of America.

France’s Cac 40 share index was down 0.24%, while Germany’s Dax index was 0.64% lower, reversing earlier gains as Wall Street opened.

Russia’s stock exchange suspended trade following steep falls in shares.

Asian shares had a mixed session. Stocks in Tokyo, Taipei, and Seoul all rose, although prices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia lost ground.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index ended up 1.2% at 11,749.79, having risen by as much as 2.3% earlier in the day. The index had hit a three-year low on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 3.6% at 17,637.19 points.

September 15, 2008

Lehman set to go into insolvency

Lehman set to go into insolvency

Graph

Preparations are being made for Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the US, to file for bankruptcy.

The two strongest potential buyers appear to have pulled out of talks to rescue Lehman – the latest victim of the American credit crisis.

If no new financing comes before Wall Street opens, it will have to seek “Chapter 11” bankruptcy protection.

This could result in a severe shock to the global financial system, as banks unwind their complex deals with Lehman.

Late on Sunday the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, announced new moves to ease access to emergency credit for struggling financial companies.

The Fed said the step – which broadens the types of securities financial institutions can use to obtain emergency loans – was designed to mitigate the potential risks and disruptions to markets.

In a related move, a consortium of 10 investment banks announced a $70bn (£39bn) loan program that troubled financial companies can use to help ease the credit shortage.

The banks – Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS – each agreed to provide $7bn (£4bn) to the pool.

On Monday, Asian stock markets fell amid concerns over the fate of Lehman Brothers.

Singapore stocks dropped 2.26% in morning trading and shares in Taiwan fell 1.83%.

Markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul were closed for public holidays.

Lehman employs about 25,000 worldwide, including 5,000 in the UK.

Accountancy firm PWC has already been lined up to run the British operations of Lehman should the firm go into administration.

BBC business editor Robert Peston says UK bank Barclays’ decision to walk away from a Lehman deal was a huge setback for the effort to rescue the Lehman.

Barclays terminated the negotiations because it was unable to obtain guarantees in relation to financial commitments faced by Lehman when markets open on Monday.

Bad bank, good bank

The rescue effort for Lehman was being co-ordinated by the US Treasury and the New York Federal Reserve.

No other large firm should buy Lehman whole – its toxic real estate and securities are too difficult to value
Peter Morici
University of Maryland

The US government had hoped to arrange a bailout under which other US investment banks would finance a “bad bank” that would hold the most “toxic” investments of Lehman in the property and mortgage market.

The “good bank” or rest of the firm, including its investment and wealth management arms, would then be sold to another financial institution, for example Bank of America or the UK’s Barclays.

Although such a deal would have cost the other investment banks millions, it might have restored confidence in the sector and avoided a sharp drop in the share price of all banks.

However, it appears that this plan is falling apart.

“The only thing that can prevent Lehman collapsing would be a huge injection of taxpayers’ money,” a banker close to the talks told the BBC, but added that US Treasury Secretary “Hank Paulson has made it clear he doesn’t want to do that”.

Hard choices

Bank of America, meanwhile, is said to be unconvinced that buying Lehman would be in the interest of its shareholders.

Instead, according to a report in the New York Times, Bank of America is in “advanced talks” to buy investment bank Merrill Lynch for more than $38bn.

HAVE YOUR SAY

It’s amazing that companies which charge high interest to cover risk still need to be bailed out by the taxpayer.

Jack, Canada

Like other US investment banks Merrill has suffered losses of tens of billions of dollars in the subprime crisis, and has seen its share price plummet during recent months.

“No other large firm should buy Lehman whole – its toxic real estate and securities are too difficult to value,” said Peter Morici of the business school of the University of Maryland.

Lehman is up for sale after it reported a $3.9bn (£2.2bn) quarterly loss last week amid concerns over its long term financial viability.

The firm’s share price has plummeted as fears over its future have mounted.

Former Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan said the US government faced “very difficult decisions” over Lehman if it could not secure a rescue deal that did not involve public funds.

Yet Mr Greenspan said it would be “unsustainable” for the government to bail out every US bank that got itself into difficulty.

Predicting that Lehman would not be the last to require rescuing, Mr Greenspan added that this would not necessarily pose a problem.

“The ordinary course of financial change has winners and losers,” he said.

September 13, 2008

Alitalia ‘running out of fuel’

Alitalia ‘running out of fuel’

Alitalia plane

Negotiations with unions will be critical to saving the airline

Italy’s troubled national airline, Alitalia, cannot guarantee flights beyond Sunday because of a lack of funds to buy fuel, a top official says.

“Until the end of tomorrow, flights are guaranteed. From Monday, they are not,” Augusto Fantozzi, Alitalia’s bankruptcy administrator, told unions.

Mr Fantozzi was speaking as he called the unions to emergency talks a day after the latest session broke down.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi blamed “political” motives for the failure.

He said he would do all he could to save Alitalia from collapse.

“The executive is always ready… to give all the possible support to get to the only solution possible to avoid the airline going bust,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa.

Italian investment consortium CAI, which was poised to take over the company’s profit-making parts, walked away from talks with the unions on Friday, accusing them of intransigence.

CIA chief executive Rocco Sabelli said on Saturday it was not ready to make any further concessions.

August 30, 2008

Alitalia seeks bankruptcy measure

Alitalia seeks bankruptcy measure

Alitalia plane

Negotiations with unions will be critical to saving the airline

Troubled Italian airline Alitalia has applied for bankruptcy protection as it tries to agree a deal to ensure its long-term survival.

The carrier has sought court protection from its creditors, effectively declaring itself insolvent.

An administrator will be appointed to handle the process, with flights continuing while the firm plans a radical overhaul of its operations.

Losing 2m euros (£1.6m) a day, Alitalia has survived on a 300m-euro state loan.

Plans are being drawn up to split the carrier into two and to sell a stake in a new entity to a foreign airline.

Split in two

Guaranteeing the airline’s future will depend on securing fresh investment and persuading its unions to accept large job cuts.

Both Air France KLM and Lufthansa have expressed interest in investing in any new entity which emerges from the current business.

No one can buy Alitalia in the state it’s in… the business is toast
Roberto Colaninno

Earlier on Friday, Corrado Passera, head of the airline’s financial advisers Intesa Sanpaolo, confirmed that Alitalia’s board was drawing up a request to seek bankruptcy protection.

The move will give the firm breathing space to reach agreement on how the business can proceed.

The government adopted new measures on Thursday aimed at speeding up bankruptcy proceedings, widely interpreted as a signal that Alitalia was set for such a course of action.

Future plans for the carrier would see it divided in half, with its loss-making operations remaining under bankruptcy protection and potentially being liquidated.

Profitable short-haul routes would be separated into a new business, controlled by a consortium of Italian investors including budget airline Air One which would effectively be merged with Alitalia.

Italian media have speculated that the new firm will employ 7,000 fewer staff than Alitalia’s current 19,000 strong workforce and operate flights to about 50 fewer destinations.

Italian ownership

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has made Alitalia’s continued ownership by Italian interests a precondition of any rescue deal.

However, experts have said the airline – of which the government owns 49% – can only survive in the future as part of some European alliance.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi wants to keep the airline in Italian hands

Previous attempts to sell the business to a foreign airline have foundered over union concerns about job losses and unease over the severity of the airline’s financial problems.

The airline’s perilous position was put into perspective by Roberto Colaninno, appointed to take charge of the new entity that emerges from the restructuring.

“No one can buy Alitalia in the state it’s in,” he told La Repubblica newspaper.

“With all respect, I am not Merlin the magician. The business is toast. It doesn’t exist any more. There’s nothing left.”

Alitalia has been crippled in recent years by strategic indecision, poor industrial relations and soaring fuel costs.

Its shares were suspended earlier this summer while the firm has delayed the release of its 2007 accounts.

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