US: GM to repay Uncle Sam by June
General Motors Co plans to repay about US$8bn in debt to the United States and Canada by June, speeding payback of the first portion of its bailout.
"We intend to pay the debt," chairman and acting chief executive Ed Whitacre said in his first meeting with media on Tuesday. "We'll be done by June."
Whitacre's comments marked the first time GM had committed to repaying its government loans within a year after it filed for bankruptcy in a restructuring steered by the Obama administration, Reuters noted.
Whitacre said he was not sure how long he would serve as the automaker's top executive after taking on the interim role following the abrupt departure of Fritz Henderson.
"I'm enjoying it," Whitacre told Reuters when asked about his new role as acting CEO.
Though he said he did not intend to stay for long as CEO, he had not set a time for stepping aside with GM's 12-member board. His pay as CEO will be discussed by the compensation committee of GM's board next year.
"Do I want to do it long term? I told the board no, but I haven't defined that. I can't even define that myself," Whitacre said.
Within two weeks, he expects to announce a new chief financial officer to replace Ray Young, who is being transferred to GM's Shanghai-based international operations.
No candidates for a permanent CEO have been identified yet and the search for an outside candidate could be complicated by pay restrictions set by the US Treasury.
"We can't pay people a whole lot of money here, so that focuses you a little bit more internally," Whitacre said.
He said GM's board had differed with Henderson on whether the automaker should sell its European Opel unit but a range of considerations had led directors to conclude it was time for new leadership.
"I think the board wanted to change things, do things a little differently, go in a different direction," Whitacre said.
"The board disagreed with Fritz on Opel. I don't think that's any secret," he said.
"The board looked at it and said this is a valuable asset. Why should we sell it for something that probably wasn't enough money when we can do something with it. We just disagreed and the board wanted to have Opel."
Whitacre said he had no timetable for a relisting of GM shares through an initial public offering. Henderson had said an IPO would be possible as early as the second half of 2010.
"We don't have a specific time frame for an IPO. We have some things we have to do internally. We have to produce results," Whitacre added.
When GM has paid off its $8.1bn in government debt by June, it will have cut its current $17bn debt almost in half. The automaker previously said it could then seek a private line of credit from banks, Reuters said.