GM's CEO Is Right to Want Full Sale at IPO

General Motors is eager for its upcoming initial public offering. In fact, the automaker's CEO Ed Whitacre is hoping to sell all of the stock resulting from the bailout at that time. If the firm does pull off that feat, then it will be out from under the influence of the U.S. government. That would be great for taxpayers, but even better for GM.

The Associated Press reports:

Some experts had expected General Motors Co. to sell only a partial stake at first, followed by several smaller sales, but Ed Whitacre told reporters at an auto conference Thursday, "Our anticipation is we'd roll it out there all at once."
"We want the government out. Period," Whitacre said. "We don't want to be known as Government Motors."

As long as the government owns a portion of GM, public perception of the firm will have trouble recovering. That's a serious problem for the company. No matter how much it improves its vehicles, if people hate the brand, then they won't buy its cars.

When I was at a Chevy Cruze press event last week I spoke with numerous GM employees. They all stressed that they take the bailout very seriously. It was clear that they were aching to prove themselves to the American public. That has to start with paying back their bailout in full.

Of course, having the desire to sell all of the government's shares in the IPO doesn't mean the automaker will be able to do so. A few questions remain. First, will the government allow all of the stock to be sold at once? AP notes:

GM spokesmen later said the decision on how much equity to sell will be made by current stockholders, the U.S. and Canadian governments, a United Auto Workers health care trust and former bondholders.

If the government for some reason believes that it isn't in GM's best interest to sell all of its equity during the first offering, then it prevent the firm from doing so. As AP says other very interested parties may also have something to say about a full sale.

But even if they are all willing to go along, there's another obstacle: the market must want to buy all of it. Indeed, skeptical investors might not want to purchase GM stock at a price the firm can stomach. This shows that GM is in something of a pickle. It can't really move forward as a company until it gets out from the bailout's shadow. Yet, it might not be able to entice investors to buy its stock until they believe the company has truly moved forward.