Friday, June 5, 2009

GM agrees to sell Hummer brand; buyers eye Saturn, Saab

One day after filing for bankruptcy protection, General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it has found a buyer for its Hummer brand, and there are parties interested in Saturn and Saab.

GM did not disclose the name of the buyer, but The Associated Press cited anonymous sources who said the buyer was Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. of China. Financial terms of the tentative deal, which still needs regulatory approval, were not disclosed.

The automaker said the deal is expected to preserve more than 3,000 U.S. jobs in manufacturing and engineering, and at Hummer dealerships around the country. The buyer is also expected to "aggressively" fund future Hummer products.

Under the deal, a GM plant in Shreveport, La., will continue to assemble the H3 and H3T under contract through at least 2010.

"I’m confident that Hummer will thrive globally under its new ownership," said Troy Clarke, president of GM North America.

"And for GM, this sale continues to accelerate the reinvention of GM into a leaner, more focused, and more cost-competitive automaker," he said in a release.

As part of its restructuring plan, GM is eliminating the venerable Pontiac brand, and has put its Saab and Saturn brands on the auction block. Both Saturn and Saab are in bankruptcy protection.

Possible Saturn buyers

GM said it has 16 potential buyers interested in acquiring the Saturn brand, along with three parties interested in Sweden's Saab.

The information was disclosed in a slide show prepared for a conference call with reporters and analysts to be hosted by GM CEO Fritz Henderson and chief financial officer Ray Young.

In the slide show, GM said it was still looking at manufacturing agreements for the possible buyer.

The company said it will focus on four core brands in the future: GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.

GM plans to reduce its number of assembly, power train and stamping plants from 47 in 2008 to 34 by the end of 2010 and 33 by 2012. On Monday, the company announced the permanent closure of nine plants and the idling of three others. The company is also closing three parts warehouses.

Money for Opel

Also on Tuesday, GM took another step in its restructuring as its Opel unit received the first part of a government bridge loan. The German government, together with the governments of four German states, provided the first 300 million euros ($462 million Cdn) of a total loan package of 1.5 billion euros ($2.31 billion Cdn).

"This responsiveness of the German government ensures that [Opel's] operations maintain adequate liquidity as a more independent European Opel/Vauxhall company continues normal operations," Opel and GM Europe said.

Canadian autoparts maker Magna International, together with state-controlled Russian lender Sberbank, reached a deal on May 30 to acquired majority control of Opel. Magna will get a 20 per cent stake, while Sberbank will get 35 per cent control.

GM will keep 35 per cent of the company, while Opel employees will own 10 per cent.

"We are giving Opel a chance," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "This would not have been possible without the state's financial commitment."

With files from The Associated Press