Have Your Cereal with Red Ink, Courtesy GM's Share Buyback, Taxpayers


This just off the presses: Government Motors is buying 200 million of the 500 million shares currently held by the Treasury as a first step to complete freedom from the government. Reports The Wall Street Journal:

The auto maker will pay $5.5 billion for the shares in a deal that is expected to close by the end of the year. The repurchase price of $27.50 a share represents a 7.9% premium over the closing price on Dec. 18.

"We felt this transaction is attractive to the company, good for business and good for selling more cars," GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Amman said Wednesday. "It moves us forward and eliminates a significant overhang on the stock that has weighed down the shares."

That's great for the company. But before the administration starts spinning tales about how its wise bailout set the stage for GM's stunning comeback, taxpayers should bear the following facts in mind:

In order for them to recover their entire $30 billion still in the company, GM's share price should be exactly double of what it is paying Treasury today. This means that if taxpayers sell the remaining 300 million (19 percent of the outstanding shares) at $27.50, they will be in the red by about $15 billion – give or take a few. And this of course does not count the $15 billion or so in illicit tax write offs that the administration handed GM during bankruptcy.

Also, although the $27.50 share price represents a nearly 8 percent markup over the closing price yesterday, it is $5.50 below GM's IPO price – and at least $13 to $17.50 below what many analysts two years ago had hoped it would stabilize at.

So, if anything, GM's performance thus far has been disappointing, something that you won't hear at Jay Carney's press briefing today. And the fact that the company waited till the month after the elections to make its move tells you all you need to know about which end of the stick taxpayers are holding in this deal.