November 17, 2010 / 6:36 PM / 8 years ago

Small investors clamor for GM shares but supply thin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Retail investors are clamoring for a piece of the General Motors GM.UL initial public stock offering, but financial advisers are concerned that they will not be able to satisfy all their demands.

There has been strong investor interest in what could be one of the world’s largest IPOs ever. GM priced 478 million shares at $33 a share on Wednesday afternoon, CNBC reported and Reuters confirmed. The shares are expected to begin trading in New York and Toronto on Thursday.

GM raised about $15.8 billion through the common shares and $4 billion in preferred shares, a source told Reuters.

“There is a public perception that this will be easy money,” said David Cottam of National Wealth Management, an independent adviser firm in Morristown, New Jersey.

Cottam said he has seen a lot of interest from clients and that he put in “indications of interest” with firms where he holds prime brokerage accounts and does other business, including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, one of the IPO’s lead underwriters.

On Tuesday, GM increased the number of shares to be sold by 31 percent and increased the price range on the shares.

Sources have said that about 20 percent of shares were expected to be allocated to retail investors, down from an initial 30 percent.

Morgan Stanley (MS.N), JP Morgan Chase (JPM.N) Bank of America (BAC.N) Merrill Lynch and Citigroup (C.N) are the lead underwriters on the deal, which means advisers at those firms could obtain access to the new GM shares for their clients.

But even these advisers are not confident they will be able to satisfy client demand.

“I don’t do IPO business at all, and even I have had 10 clients calling up asking about it,” said one Merrill Lynch adviser, who declined to be named because Merrill does not allow advisers to talk to reporters.

The clients who requested shares have never participated in an IPO before, the adviser added.

The adviser said that Merrill Lynch ranks advisers in terms of the amount of IPO business they conduct and allocates shares based on those rankings. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has a similar system, according to an adviser from that firm.

HYPE?

Some brokers said they were cautioning clients not to buy into a deal they perceived as hyped up.

“I think hedge funds and institutions will be taking the shares and flipping them quickly, which leaves more risk to retail investors, who aren’t as savvy,” said Cottam.

There has also been some popular backlash against the company which received a $49.5 billion government bailout last year and has laid off thousands of workers.

Ted Feight, a Lansing, Michigan-based independent adviser who counts current and former GM employees among his clients, said the company has a lot of work to do to win over locals.

“I don’t think GM is viable,” he said.

Feight added that for the first time he is planning to buy a car from a company other than GM. When he apologized to some of his GM clients about that, they told him that they were not planning to buy a GM car either.

“I hope GM does well. As GM goes, so goes Lansing,” said Feight. “But I just think they have too much to prove yet.”

Feight is also advising his clients against buying the IPO shares, even though up to 5 percent of the offering has been reserved for employees and former employees.

Even if the shares get an initial bump in the market, Feight thinks there are more attractive opportunities in other sectors and as a long-term investor does not think GM is a good bet.

Many investors have also found that their brokers have no access at all to the deal.

GM last week booted UBS, initially an underwriter, after a UBS research analyst sent an email discussing the IPO the night before it was filed, a violation of the rules.

That in turn has cut off customers of Charles Schwab, which has an IPO distribution deal with UBS.

One UBS adviser said he was not overly concerned about being excluded. His experience with other popular IPOs has taught him that clients rarely get the number of shares they want.

“It ends up upsetting the clients more than helping them,” said the adviser, who did not want to be named because the company does not allow advisers to talk to reporters.

Given the small allocation of IPO shares that most retail investors will receive, Greg Ghodsi, a Tampa, Florida, adviser with Raymond James & Associates, said the impact on a client’s portfolio would be minimal.

“It’s more from an excitement standpoint,” Ghodsi said. “It’s like when the 3-D flatscreen TV comes out and everyone has to have one.”

Reporting by Helen Kearney. Additional reporting by Clare Baldwin and Soyoung Kim. Editing by Matthew Lewis and Robert MacMillan

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