The U.S. government plans to sell another 30 million shares of General Motors stock in a public offering on Thursday as it speeds up efforts to divest itself from a stake in the auto giant that got a $49.5 billion bailout four years ago.
The Treasury Department will set the price for the shares after the markets close on Thursday, with the sale taking place shortly thereafter. A United Auto Workers retiree health care trust fund will join the sale and sell 20 million shares, pushing the size of the offering to 50 million shares.
GM has been looking for a way to rid itself of the feds, hoping to ditch the nickname "Government Motors," as well as attract customers who have shunned GM cars because it took government money.
The public offering will help accelerate the government's exit from owning GM stock. Late last year the government still owned 500 million shares of the automaker, but GM bought 200 million shares for $5.5 billion in December, and the Treasury pledged to gradually sell its remaining stake by early next year.
At the end of April, the latest report available, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole. So far this year, government has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion. That left 241.7 million shares of GM stock still in government hands. That stock would have to sell for about $78 per share for the government to recoup its total bailout costs.
After Thursday's sale, the government would still own around 211 million shares, although it likely sold additional shares on the open market in May that haven't been disclosed yet. The Treasury Department said it still plans to sell its entire stake in GM by early next year.
General Motors Co. stock fell 24 cents to $34.72 in trading early Wednesday, but it has seen decent growth recently. The stock hit $35.49 on Tuesday, the highest point since December of 2010, according to FactSet. Shares are up about 19 percent since the beginning of the year.
The sale of 50 million shares will coincide with GM's re-entry into the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Shares of all automakers traded in the U.S. are showing double-digit gains this year.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report. This post has been updated.