GM strike costing up to $100 million a day isn't worrying investors — at least not yet

Key Points
  • Wall Street isn't panicking or downgrading the automaker as a result of the United Auto Workers calling a strike against the automaker just yet.
  • Analysts estimate GM is losing roughly $50 million to $100 million per day as a result of lost production.
  • GM shares this week, following the union announcing the strike on Sunday, are down about 4 percent.
UAW members on strike outside a GM plant in Flint Michigan on Sept. 16th, 2019.
Michael Wayland | CNBC

DETROIT – General Motors stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in production as a United Auto Workers union strike against the automaker enters its second day, but Wall Street isn't panicking or downgrading the automaker just yet.

The company has enough cash on hand and its dealers have enough vehicles in stock to weather the storm without significant problems for at least a week, according to financial analysts. After that, investors may become more concerned, potentially having a greater impact on shares of the company.

"From a bottom line standpoint, the impact could potentially be nominal if the strike is resolved quickly; yet, the longer it lasts, the more it will be felt in GM's earnings profile," wrote Credit Suisse's Dan Levy in a note Monday.

Bond ratings company Moody's Investors Service, which called the strike a "credit-negative for the company," agreed: "Beyond the initial one-to-two weeks, the financial burden of a strike will become more material and the prospects of a contract that avoids erosion of the company's current competitive position is less likely."

Analysts estimate GM is losing roughly $50 million to $100 million per day in production. UBS' Colin Langan estimated a prolonged strike would shave roughly 10 cents off GM's earnings per share during the third quarter, specifically from the lost production at its pickup and SUV factories.

After declining more than 4% on Monday, shares of GM closed up 2.9% on Tuesday at $38.29 as negotiations continued to progress. The stock is down 1.5% so far this week.

Moody's said the outcome of the negotiations is "critical" for the company as vehicle sales slow in the U.S. and Asia and the company spends billions of dollars in restructuring charges that will save money in the future.

United Auto Workers strike enters second day as talks with GM continue

Consumers won't likely notice the impact of the strike for at least a week, when inventories of some popular models could start to thin, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy.

"Consumers shouldn't notice an impact immediately, as GM dealers currently have inventory of about 83 days' supply on hand," he wrote in a note to investors Monday. "However, if the strike drags much beyond a week there could be some product shortages that emerge."

GM's suppliers haven't been impacted by the strike yet, but that could change, especially the longer it drags on, Citigroup analysts said in a research note to investors. Its suppliers with the biggest exposure include American Axle, Magna, Lear and Aptiv, according to Citigroup.

GM declined to comment on the impact of the strike on its bottom line.

"Contract talks are ongoing," the company said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business."

Investors don't anticipate the strike against GM to have much, if any, impact on Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler at this time. The union indefinitely extended the current contracts of those automakers to concentrate on negotiations with GM.

Although the contracts between the UAW and companies are tailored to each automaker, the UAW traditionally uses "patterned bargaining," which means the union negotiates a deal with a lead company first and then uses that contract framework to negotiate with the two other carmakers.

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