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GM Expected to Pay Off U.S. Loans on Wednesday

Aiming to win back right-wing skeptics who’re shunning the automaker.

by on Apr.20, 2010

Why is this man smiling? GM CEO Ed Whitacre may be thinking about paying off government loans, staging an IPO, expanding a key plant -- and winning over bailout skeptics in Washington.

We’ve become an angry nation, and whether it’s health care, gun control, Sarah Palin or Tea Parties, there’s something for everyone to get worked up about.  Like General Motors, which seems to cross the political spectrum when it comes to those angered by the tens of billions of dollars the company received from the federal treasury to keep it afloat last year.

No wonder Chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. is willing to draw down the struggling automaker’s bank account in a bit to placate critics.  The tall and lanky Texan has already authorized two repayments – for a total of $2 billion — and, reports suggest, Whitacre will have some more news when he visits the GM plant in Fairfax, Kansas, tomorrow.  Several well-placed sources suggest the primary headline will be the complete payback of the $4.7 billion the automaker still owes the government.

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The big question is whether Whitacre will also reveal the answer to an even bigger question: the timing of GM’s planned Initial Public Offering.  There’s little doubt the government would like to have that occur as soon as possible – potentially even before the upcoming election – so it could demonstrate its commitment to recovering the bailout funds that went into GM in the form of equity.  At the moment, the White House oversees a 61% stake in General Motors, though Whitacre has repeatedly insisted that, for the large part he hasn’t had to deal with daily oversight.

Until now, the CEO has been reluctant to set a timetable for an IPO, his new Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell underscoring the importance of waiting for “the right time.”