A bailed-out and> rejuvenated General Motors announced its initial public offering Wednesday, at a higher-than-expected $33 a share. But as company execs and the bankers on the government s auto task force take their victory lap, investors are left to wonder: Should they buy this stock?
After strong third-quarter earnings fueled investor demand, the company offered 478 million shares 31% more than it originally planned and its initial share price is well above the earlier anticipated range of $26 to $29. The offering is expected to raise at least $15.8 billion, making it one of the largest IPOs in U.S. history. GM has done a good job marketing it as an event, says Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based investment firm IPOX Capital Management. There s hype.
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General Motors Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell talks to Kelsey Hubbard about the company's initial public offering, which is expected to be the second-largest in U.S. history, as well as GM's outlook.>
Does GM really deserve the flashy IPO parade? On paper, the reengineered automaker boasts a phenomenal balance sheet, with strong cash flow, and a conservative price-to-earnings valuation, even after the pre-IPO bump. In the third quarter, the company posted earnings of $2 billion on sales of $34 billion its biggest profit in more than a decade. Analysts note that better pricing has helped the company s profits; the new Buick LaCrosse, for example, sells for about $7,800 more per unit compared to last year. Simply put, GM makes products that consumers are willing to pay more for than they once did, notes David Whiston, an auto analyst at Morningstar. GM also has a strong presence in China and other emerging markets where auto demand is growing. That s one reason, says Schuster, that there s good reason to believe the company will outperform.
If results from its primary rival, Ford (F),
Of course, there are still plenty of reasons for investors to be skeptical. For one, GM s common stock investors won t see dividends for a long time. That s because the government has to get more of its $49 billion investment back from GM before any penny goes elsewhere. While the company has crept into the black, its sales are still far below their pre-wipeout peaks. There s also the question of how long the Government Motors stigma will hang over the company and whether the auto giant s financial restructuring has addressed all its issues, including its continuing obligations to retirees. Investors will remember the problems of the old GM, Therian says, and that could weigh down the stock price.
Already, GM has braced analysts for mediocre fourth-quarter earnings because of the cost of launching new product lines like the all-electric Chevrolet Volt. If the company bounces back in early 2011, Joe Phillippi, president of AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J., predicts the stock could hit $45 within a year, followed by up to three more years of solid but not spectacular year-over-year growth. This is a pretty strong company, he says. Its fortunes are going to be driven by management s ability to deliver.