Caterpillar Sells Business for $130 Million and General Motors Enters a New Era

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average is trading below 16,000 today on lower volume as an early winter storm has swept over a chunk of the country. In news unrelated to the bitter cold, wholesale inventories increased by 1.4% from September to October, which was the largest rise in two years. While economic data was slow today, some big-name companies are making headlines.

Caterpillar product floor. Photo credit: Caterpillar.

Inside the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Caterpillar is making headlines by selling its mining product distribution and support business in northeastern China to WesTrac, a subsidiary of Seven Group Holdings . The deal is valued around $130 million. WesTrac estimates annual revenue from the acquired business to be between $210 million and $250 million for 2015. 

"China produces almost half of the world's coal, with a forecast to grow, [so] there is a tremendous opportunity for both Caterpillar and WesTrac to partner and grow alongside our mining customers in that country," said Steve Wunning, a Caterpillar group president, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Caterpillar is the largest global manufacturer of heavy equipment for construction and mining and will remain a dominant global player. That said, with worldwide demand still far below its historical peak and not looking to improve much in 2014, investors would be wise to keep the stock on your watchlist for now.

Outside the Dow Jones, General Motors is making big headlines. For starters, the company announced longtime employee Mary Barra will take the reins as CEO in January 2014. But the company made news yesterday as well. The company is exiting the ugliest chapter in its history as the U.S. Treasury Department announced yesterday that it had sold its last remaining shares of General Motors' stock.

Treasury extended a much-needed lifeline to General Motors in 2009, and in return for nearly $50 billion in aid it received a roughly 61% stake in the troubled automaker. The federal agency managed to recoup $39 billion of its original investment, which leaves a $10.5 billion loss for taxpayers.

In addition to that taxpayer hit, General Motors was also gifted massive losses from "old" GM, essentially meaning the company didn't have to pay the full amount of taxes on profits until recently. That's a bitter pill to swallow for many taxpayers informed enough to know General Motors has posted 15 straight quarters of profits, nearly $20 billion in net income, since emerging from its unique bankruptcy in 2009.

It's easy to get frustrated with how General Motors benefited from a bankruptcy that enabled it to wipe tens of billions of debt off its balance sheet and pay less in taxes for years. It's especially frustrating when General Motors' cross-town rival Ford put up its namesake Blue Oval logo as collateral for more than $23 billion in loans needed to survive the financial crisis, which it's fully paid back with interest. That said, we have to keep in mind that the GM bailout -- regardless of how we feel about it - did save an estimated 1.2 million jobs in 2009, according to a study from the Center for Automotive Research.

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Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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