GM posts $4.3 billion loss, says 2010 profit possible

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co GM.UL posted a net loss for 2009, but said it was possible to make a profit this year and that it was laying the foundation to return to public ownership.

Chevrolet cars at the parking lot of a General Motors dealership in Miami, June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

GM reported a $4.3 billion 2009 net loss covering the period from its emergence from bankruptcy in July through the end of the year. The automaker said it was committed to repaying the outstanding balances on its U.S. Treasury and Export Development Canada loans by June “at the latest.”

Completing the “fresh start” accounting process lays the groundwork for GM to launch an initial public offering that would reduce the U.S. government’s majority stake.

GM Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said in a conference call that he was “incredibly encouraged” by the automaker’s progress in its turnaround.

“General Motors should never again be in the financial position it found itself in last year,” Liddell said.

The timing of an IPO would depend largely on the financial markets and overall industry sales, but also on the progress GM makes on its foundation, Liddell said.

GM said going public would enable the automaker to invest in vehicle designs and sales, attract the best people and gain access to the capital markets.

After accumulating losses of about $88 billion from 2005 through the first quarter of 2009, GM’s predecessor company fell into a government-supported bankruptcy. The U.S. Treasury currently holds a stake of more than 60 percent in the new GM.

In the results released on Wednesday, GM reported a $3.4 billion fourth-quarter net loss and revenue of $32.3 billion.

GM ended 2009 with $36.2 billion in cash, compared with $14.2 billion at the end of 2008 under its predecessor company.

The automaker said it expects to release first-quarter results by the middle of May, returning to a normal pattern for U.S. corporations.

The reports on Wednesday provided the first full accounting of GM’s new balance sheet based on generally accepted accounting principles.

GM had to effectively revalue more than 1 million asset records from its operations across the globe to build a balance sheet that accounts for adjustments to the value of fixed assets, pension and healthcare liabilities and debt to the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The results are not comparable to past results of the former GM, now known as Motors Liquidation Co.

Additional reporting by David Bailey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis