Yesterday, General Motors and its bondholders had officially called it quits, and GM was headed for a certain and certain-to-be-rocky bankruptcy. Today, according to a company filing, The General and the necessary chunk of its bondholders have come to an agreement, and the company looks to be headed to a slightly less rocky bankruptcy.
The familiar expression goes "Better the devil you know," meaning it's preferable to deal with the nasty things you don't like but are at least familiar with. General Motors, however, doesn't seem to think so. The troubled automaker appears more ready to take its chances with bankruptcy than continue to fight the weight of monumental debt and the demands of restructuring it.
If General Motors' saga were a play by Aeschylus, today marks the day when Kent Kresa, GM's interim chairman, returns from a visit to the Oracle at Delphi and informs everyone that the signs are not auspicious. There's been much talk of the bondholder issues that GM faces, and the news today is that the deadline for the debt-for-equity transaction isn't June 1 -- it's this Friday. That's when a bondholder agreement would need to be in place so GM would have everything sorted before its upcoming
GM's most recent offer to its bondholders offered a little bit of cash and a little bit of equity. GM CEO Fritz Henderson's example was that a holder of $1,000 in bonds would end up with $333 and a some equity. After conferring with the Auto Task Force, however, that offer was deemed excessive in light of GM's situation so a new deal is being readied for bondholder approval.
GM and Chrysler have until Tuesday to complete the financial restructuring demanded by the government under the terms of the bridge loans. It is unlikely that they will make that target. The sticking point for GM is unwillingness on the part of bondholders to agree to what's being asked: GM needs to transform $27 billion of debt into liquidity, and that means a serious dilution of bondholder equity.
General Motors submitted a restructuring plan on February 17 that included 47,000 job cuts, 14 plant closings by 2012 and the sale, dismantling, or shrinking of four brands. It sounds like a big remodeling job, unless you're a GM bondholder. In a letter sent to President Obama's automotive task force, GM's debt holders feel that the plan may rely too heavily on the ability for the economy and car sales to make a quick turnaround. The letter states that bond holders "do not know if the plan would