GM May See Profit in 2010, Mulling Possible IPO

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It seems General Motors is moving faster than a speeding Corvette in returning to profitability. The Detroit-based auto giant said Wednesday it has a "reasonable chance" to show a profit this year and may soon make initial public offering in the new, smaller company.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since joining GM two months ago from Microsoft (MSFT), Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said that while an IPO is possible, GM won't rush into selling shares and declined to provide a definitive timetable for the offering, saying only that an offering is possible during the second half of the year.

"We'll do it when we're ready," Liddell said, according to Reuters. The former Microsoft CFO said he was pleased with the progress GM has made in the short time he's been the company.

GM is majority owned by the U.S. government, which has a greater than 60% stake in the company. An IPO has been planned since GM emerged from bankruptcy in July. Other major shareholders include the Canadian government; the United Auto Workers Union; and bondholders, whose debt was wiped clean during bankruptcy proceedings.

Among Liddell's goals in bringing GM back to financial health is paying back the $6.7 billion the U.S. government loaned GM last year as part of a rescue package. Last week, GM paid $1 billion toward that and also started paying back a smaller loan made by Canada, The Wall Street Journal reported.

New Technology

In other GM news, the company said it's eying 2015 as the possible production date for its hydrogen fuel cell system, a test version of which has been operating in a fleet of 119 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs. In a presentation Tuesday in Burbank, Calif., GM unveiled a new version of the power train, which is about half the size and 220 pounds lighter than the original. It also uses about a third less platinum, a pricey element.

While U.S. policy has shifted toward producing cars using lithium-ion technology, GM said it remains committed to hydrogen-powered vehicles. "We are not abandoning the fuel-cell technology," said Charles Freese, GM's executive director of global power train engineering. "Through the worst years in this company's history we maintained the program and maintained the forward progress."

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer the potential to drive farther and refuel faster than battery-powered cars, but high production costs and a dearth of hydrogen fuel stations has kept their use limited to test fleets.

GM isn't the only car maker dabbling in the technology. Honda Motor began leasing its FCX Clarity to a select number of drivers in Los Angeles in 2008. In addition, Toyota Motor (TM), Daimler (DAI) and Hyundai Motor each plan to have fuel-cell vehicles ready for retail delivery by 2015.
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