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'Government Motors' not dead yet

The U.S. may be out but the Canadian and Ontario governments still own 7.2% of GM

Published: December 10, 2013, 11:00 PM

GM Ownership

The U.S.Treasury Department sold its remaining shares of General Motors yesterday, recovering $39 billion (all figures in $US) of the $49.5 billion it invested to make a new GM viable when old GM succumbed to bankruptcy four years ago.

The Treasury department has been divesting its GM shares since the company went public in November, 2010 and with this final disposal, GM should now be able to shed the mantle of 'Government Motors' – a stigma it says has cost it some sales.

Technically, however, it's not yet free of government investment. The Canadian and Ontario governments, which also chipped in on with $10.6 billion for the initial bailout, still own 7.2% of the company. The other major shareholder, at 9.2%, is the UAW union's VEBA employee benefits trust fund.

Canadian Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty has said from the beginning that, "our investment in GM was always meant to be temporary." 

Following the sale of 30 million shares, valued at about $1.1 billion, in September, he repeated that the government was committing to selling its remaining GM shares, "as quickly as feasible."

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa also assured that the province was committed to exiting from its remaining investment in GM.

Still, one wonders if maintaining a shareholder's position might not be a good thing when it comes to protecting GM jobs and investment in Canada.

Only if and when Ottawa and Toronto really do sell those shares, can GM truly shed the 'Government Motors' stigma.