The challenges facing new GM CFO Chris Liddell could not be any bigger.
Two months into his job at the country's largest auto maker he's trying to steer a company from money-losing post bankruptcy status to profitable future as a publicly traded company.
A daunting task in any company, made even tougher by the fact GM's largest shareholder is the U.S. Government. So why is he optimistic about GM's future?
Liddell talked with me and a handful of auto industry reporters for roughly 45 minutes this morning. During the Q and A session it was clear he's encouraged about GM's improving financial state. In fact, when I first met him and asked him what's the biggest surprise he's experienced since joining GM, he told me, "It's coming in here and finding out the financial operation and people running it are not as bad as they were portrayed last year."
You remember how GM was described last year by the government's auto task force. Steve Rattner described the automaker as having "perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company."
Liddell saw the stories, but it didn't scare him off. He loved the challenge of turning around GM.
So how is GM doing on some key metrics?
- GM has a reasonable chance of being profitable this year
- A GM IPO in the second half of this year is possible, but he says it's too early to commit to a date.
- GM plans to repay the government loan as soon as possible.
CEO Ed Whitacre has said GM hopes to repay those loans by June, and while Liddell wouldn't commit to that deadline, you get the impression he plans to send Uncle Sam it's money by then.
Will the U.S. eventually be made whole and get back the tens of billions of dollars it put into saving GM? Liddell says it's too early to tell. Much of that depends on how GM's stock does when the company goes public and when the government starts to unwind its 61% ownership stake.
But from where Chris Liddell is sitting, there's some light as the end of the tunnel for GM.
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