Chinese automaker and General Motors Co. partner SAIC said Monday it is paying close attention to GM's upcoming stock sale, but gave no hint over whether it plans to take a stake itself.
GM executives in the U.S. and China likewise refused comment on reports that the automaker is in talks with its state-owned joint venture partner SAIC about buying a stake in the Detroit company through its initial public offering.
But a U.S. Treasury Department statement said investors in GM would be sought across "multiple geographies," with a focus on North America.
"Shanghai Automotive is watching GM's progress closely. As a strategic partner of GM, SAIC-GM hopes for a successful IPO," Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. said in an emailed statement. Its staff would not comment further.
Foreign investment in U.S. automakers and other companies is common. Before the stock sale, GM will put on a two-week "road show" of presentations for investors, and several stops are expected in cities outside the U.S.
The U.S. Treasury loaned GM about $50 billion to help it through bankruptcy protection last year. GM has repaid $6.7 billion. The rest of the bailout money was converted to a 61 percent government stake in the company.
The government hopes to get the remaining $43 billion back with stock sales that could start in mid-November.
GM has been allied with SAIC since its debut in the Chinese mainland. Their first joint venture Buick factory opened in Shanghai in 1998. In December, the two companies announced plans for a venture to sell vehicles in India. In that deal, SAIC committed $350 million to the India venture, and GM agreed to turn over 1 percent of Shanghai GM, their main joint venture, giving SAIC a controlling 51 percent of the company.
SAIC and GM also have a highly successful joint venture in southern China, SAIC-GM-Wuling, whose minivans have been a top seller thanks to government policies encouraging sales of small, energy efficient vehicles.
Following the reports of its possible interest owning part of GM, SAIC's shares rose 2 percent to 16.92 yuan Monday in Shanghai.
The Treasury statement also said banks underwriting the GM stock sale will be expected to balance getting the maximum price per share and return for taxpayers with having a stable base of shareholders and keeping up interest in several sales that will occur after the initial public offering.
Individual investors will get "ample opportunity" to buy GM shares, but institutional investors such as mutual funds, hedge funds and pension funds will be sought out, the statement said.
"We expect that a large and diverse group of institutional investors will be offered an opportunity to participate, with no single investor or group of investors receiving a disproportionate share or unusual treatment," the statement said.
Last week, new GM CEO Daniel Akerson said it will take a couple years for the government to get its money back, but GM has a goal of returning the cash.
Akerson, a former telecommunications industry executive who took over from Ed Whitacre Sept. 1, said the government bailout saved a lot of jobs at GM and helped to preserve the U.S. manufacturing base.
The bailout has bred resentment with some car buyers and hurt GM's sales, however. The automaker hopes the stock sale will end its government ownership and raise money for investment and to reduce debt.
GM filed paperwork in August starting the process to sell stock to the public.
President Obama also has said all taxpayer money will be returned, but spokesmen later said he meant the money his administration pumped into GM, not bailouts made by the Bush Administration.
GM made $2.2 billion in the first half of the year, a strong sign to investors that it is much leaner and healthier than it was before bankruptcy, when it was losing billions.
The company will not sell any shares of common stock, leaving that to the government and its three other shareholders. But it plans to sell preferred stock, which pays a dividend and will be converted to common shares in 2013.
Chrysler's top executive, CEO Sergio Marchionne, said last week he expects Chrysler's IPO to take place in the second half of next year. Chrysler, in which the government has a 9.9 percent stake, got $12.5 billion in bailout money from the government.
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