发布者: shunitang | 发布时间: 2008-10-28 15:22| 查看数: 1139| 评论数: 1|

Bankruptcy Fears Rise As Chrysler, GM Seek Aid


As talks between General Motors Corp. and long-time rival Chrysler LLC continued over the weekend, a harsh reality has emerged: Without a merger and possibly an assist from the federal government, two of the Detroit's Big Three auto makers could run out of cash within a year.

GM and Chrysler are locked out of the credit markets and are burning cash quickly. If either were forced to seek bankruptcy protection, it would set off a chain-reaction across the U.S. auto industry, choking off parts supplies to healthier Asian and European car makers and slamming thousands of local car dealers. It could also create a mess for the federal government, whose pension-guarantee program would be swamped by the addition of hundreds of thousands of retirees.

The auto makers and Michigan political delegations have gone hat in hand to the government in recent weeks, proposing at least three plans to unlock cash for a merged GM-Chrysler, including seeking an equity investment from the government or unlocking funds from the government's Troubled Asset Recovery Program, or TARP.

GM and Chrysler estimate that a combined entity would need $10 billion in new equity to lay off workers, close plants, integrate the two companies and provide liquidity, according to people involved in the talks or briefed on them.

'Without external intervention, from consolidation or government assistance, we expect GM to reach its minimum cash position in under 12 months,' Deutsche Bank auto analyst Rod Lache wrote last week. In an interview, Mr. Lache adds that Chrysler is also running dangerously low on funds. 'We believe Chrysler is in the same position. It's either August 2009 or December 2009 they run out. Both have a limited runway.'

GM and Chrysler said publicly this month that bankruptcy proceedings are out of the question. Such statements came in response to investor and analyst questions, falling share prices and lowered credit ratings.

GM spokesman Steve Harris said, 'We continue to hold the position that bankruptcy is not an option.' Chrysler spokeswoman Lori McTavish said: 'Bankruptcy is not an option for Chrysler -- it doesn't make sense for us.'

Several people involved in the GM-Chrysler merger discussions say the companies have talked to federal officials about their proposed transaction. But there are no specifics yet about what role the government could, or will, play. There is no indication that Treasury, which oversees the TARP program, is currently considering proposals for anything but financial institutions.

GM and Chrysler, through a network of 10,000 dealers, have combined U.S. sales of between $110 billion and $130 billion, a figure that approaches 1% of the U.S. gross domestic product. They employ an estimated 145,000 people in the U.S. at more than 110 assembly, stamping and parts plants. An additional 600,000 retirees depend on the two car makers for health care and pensions.

GM and Chrysler 'are basically waiting on the government,' said one person involved in the merger talks. 'The three choices are bankruptcy, a big intervention from the government or some big deal like this that has massive cost-cutting possibilities,' this person said. 'That's it. And even the big deal may require government help.'

Talk of a GM-Chrysler merger began in September, following brief discussions between GM and Ford Motor Co., the third major U.S. auto maker. Cerberus Capital Management, a private-equity fund that owns 81% of Chrysler and 49% of GMAC -- GM's lending arm -- approached GM about swapping GM's 49% stake in GMAC for ownership of Chrysler. A Cerberus spokesman directed questions to Chrysler.

Such a merger would have been unthinkable in recent years because it would have only added more brands, dealerships and slow-selling models to GM's bloated structure. But with credit markets tightening and collapsing U.S. auto sales draining GM's cash, the auto maker is scrambling to keep itself afloat.

U.S. car and truck sales are down 13% through September this year. GM sales have fallen about 18% so far this year, while Chrysler's are down 25%. Ford's sales are down 17%. Ford's condition is not as grave as that of GM and Chrysler because it has more cash on hand.

In the next 12 months, U.S. auto sales could sink to levels last seen during the recession of the early 1980s, according to several forecasts, when there were 70 million fewer Americans. Sales peaked at 17.4 million in 2000 and remained near 17 million for another five years. This year, 13.6 million vehicles are expected to be sold, and sales are expected to fall by another half-million vehicles in 2009, according to consumer-researcher J.D. Power & Associates.

Today, the Big Three automakers have the capacity to build three million more cars and trucks than they are currently selling -- about 10 plants' worth of idle capacity. 'These are truly unimaginable times for our industry,' Chrysler Chief Executive Robert Nardelli told employees Friday in announcing 5,000 new white-collar job cuts.

Investors and vendors to the automakers feel bankruptcy proceedings for one of the Big Three is as likely as not, judging by a range of financial indicators. GM and Ford bonds trade between 20 to 40 cents on the dollar. Investors have valued $9 billion worth of Chrysler debt at about $3.4 billion. On Thursday, Daimler, which owns 19.9% of Chrysler, wrote its investment in the auto maker down to zero.

The GM-Chrysler plan would effectively scrap large parts of 83-year-old Chrysler. Even people involved in the deal concede a tieup would be risky because consolidation would have to take place quickly.

Under a merged GM and Chrysler, GM would take the driver's seat in product-development activities, say several people involved in the talks. GM would move several existing Chrysler products to GM architectures to save costs or kill some of the products outright, these people said. GM is expected to save Chrysler's hotter products, minivans and Jeeps. GM could also sell certain vehicle lines, such as the profitable Dodge Ram, to an auto maker seeking entry into the U.S. light-truck market.

The human toll of such a move could be high. The companies would slash duplicated functions from engineering to marketing. One internal estimate predicts at least 40,000 jobs could be cut from the roughly 166,000 people employed by the two companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

GM's cash cushion has been eroding for some time. Each month, the company spends $1 billion more than it brings in. At that burn rate, GM could effectively run short of cash next summer, without even taking into account further sales declines.

The 100-year-old company has about $20 billion on hand today, but needs at least $11 billion to $14 billion worth of working capital at all times so it can keep paying its bills, GM has said. The company has been trying for months, without success, to raise at least $5 billion by selling assets, such as its Hummer brand, and by pledging unencumbered assets, such as profitable international operations, as collateral for loans.

But lenders are reluctant to invest. GM debt, once considered the highest investment grade, has tumbled to low-rated, junk-bond status. Many lenders approached to invest in a combined GM-Chrysler have also balked. One large private-equity investor said it would take too many years for the combined entity to realize a forecast $10 billion in annual cost savings. Meanwhile, this person said, it's safer to invest in the company's debt instead of its shares, because creditors get better protection than shareholders in the event of a bankruptcy filing.

When Cerberus purchased Chrysler in the spring of 2007, the capital markets were at full throttle. The firm basically bought Chrysler for free, in exchange for offering to take on its considerable debt. Cerberus expected that once Chrysler was private and outside the public glare it could build a smaller, stronger company, and it wouldn't be difficult to find debt investors to help them do so.

It hasn't turned out that way. In two years, Chrysler has fallen from third to fifth in U.S. auto sales. J.P. Morgan estimates it has $11 billion on hand. It uses $3 billion to $5 billion of that as working capital to meet payroll, pay vendors and pay other bills. Its monthly cash burn is estimated at $300 million to $400 million. That figure may grow as vehicle sales slow, suggesting that it could run out of money by late 2009. To conserve cash, Chrysler has halted certain new-product plans, a sign that it sees a deal with GM as the only path out.

Jeffrey McCracken / John D. Stoll


shunitang 发表于 2008-10-28 15:33:56

用汽车(General Motors Corp.)和长期竞争对手克莱斯勒(Chrysler LLC)这个周末继续进行合并谈判,两家公司都面临着一个残酷的现实:如果不进行合并,得不到联邦政府可能的援助,那么两家公司的现金储备可能会在一年之内消耗殆尽。




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德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)汽车业分析师拉切(Rod Lache)上周写道,如果没有合并或政府援助等外部干预,我们预计通用汽车的现金水平会在12个月内降到底限。他在专访中补充表示,克莱斯勒的资金水平也处在危险低位;他说,我们认为克莱斯勒也面临着同样处境,明年8月或是12月他们就会弹尽粮绝。两家公司的选择余地都很有限。


通用汽车发言人哈里斯(Steve Harris)表示,我们还没到要考虑破产保护的境地。克莱斯勒发言人麦克塔维什(Lori McTavish)称,破产不在公司的考虑范围内,这对我们说不过去。





两家公司合并的传言开始于9月份,此前通用汽车和美国第三大汽车制造商福特汽车(Ford Motor Co.)曾短暂洽谈过。私人资本运营公司Cerberus Capital Management随后接洽了通用汽车,有意将所持克莱斯勒股份置换通用汽车持有旗下信贷部门通用汽车金融服务公司(GMAC) 49%的股份;Cerberus目前持有克莱斯勒81%的股份以及GMAC 49%的股份。Cerberus一位发言人不愿置评,将问题转给了克莱斯勒。



根据多项预测,美国未来12个月的汽车销量可能下滑到上世纪80年代初的前一次衰退时的水平,而当时的美国人口比现在要少7,000万。美国汽车销量在2000年时达到1,740辆的顶峰,在另外五年时间里也保持接近1,700万辆的水平。根据消费研究机构J.D. Power & Associates的数据,今年的销量估计将达到1,360万辆,预计2009年还将再减少50万辆。

如今,三大汽车巨头的轿车和卡车产能比目前的销量高出了300万辆,相当于10个工厂的产能闲置。克莱斯勒首席执行长罗伯特•纳德利(Robert Nardelli)上周五宣布将裁减5,000个白领职位时对员工说,这对我们的行业来说实在是不可想象的年代。



据几位参与谈判的人称,通用汽车和克莱斯勒合并后,通用汽车将在产品研发方面发挥主导作用。这些人称,通用汽车将把克莱斯勒现有的几款产品转到通用汽车的架构下以节约成本,或是干脆放弃部分产品。预计通用汽车将保留克莱斯勒更受欢迎的产品:微型客车和吉普车。通用汽车还会向寻求进入美国轻型卡车市场的汽车厂家出售部分汽车生产线,如仍有盈利的Dodge Ram。






但实际情况并未朝这个方向发展。在两年的时间里,克莱斯勒在美国的汽车销量排名从第三位滑落到了第五位。摩根大通(J.P. Morgan)估计,该公司手头还有110亿美元现金。克莱斯勒用其中的30亿至50亿美元作为营运资金支付工资,给供货商付费和支付其它费用。该公司每月消耗现金3亿至4亿美元。随着汽车销售的放缓,这个数字还可能上升,表明该公司可能在2009年底耗尽现金。为了保存现金,克莱斯勒已停止了部分新产品计划,这个迹象显示它将同通用汽车的交易视为了唯一的救命稻草。

Jeffrey McCracken / John D. Stoll

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