President Obama has welcomed General Motors’ return to the stock market insisting the US$23bn IPO – purported to be one of the largest ever – was a major milestone for the manufacturer and the US auto industry in general.

“Through the IPO, the government will cut its stake in GM by nearly half, continuing our disciplined commitment to exit this investment while protecting the American taxpayer,” said Obama in a statement from the White House.

“Supporting the American auto industry required tough decisions and shared sacrifices, but it helped save jobs, rescue an industry at the heart of America’s manufacturing sector, and make it more competitive for the future.”

In a separate development, media reports say Chinese automaker SAIC Motor had acquired a stake of almost 1% of the IPO, although the US manufacturer was unable to confirm the deal.

“We are happy with SAIC’s decision to participate in GM’s public offering,” Tim Lee, president of GM International Operations, is quoted as saying.

“Our ten joint ventures with SAIC include some of China’s most successful automotive operations. SAIC’s participation in GM’s public offering represents another milestone in our partnership.”

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GM said it was unable to confirm the statement. Further details are expected today following GM’s formal return to the stock exchange.