MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And Im Robert Siegel.
Today, General Motors announced it will begin selling its stock to the public for $33 a share. Trading begins tomorrow. It's one of the biggest public stock offerings in history and it will reduce the percentage of the company thats owned by the government.
But for many people with close ties to GM, tomorrow will be bittersweet. The company's 700,000 retires, active workers and dealers get the first chance to buy the new stock.
And many in that group are showing little enthusiasm for the new GM, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.
SONARI GLINTON: So far this year, GM is profitable. Part of the reason is because GM shed its most burdensome debt and obligations in bankruptcy.
Sean McAlinden is with the Center for Automotive Research. He says in the last nine months, the restructured GM has shown it's a much better company.
Dr. SEAN MCALINDEN (Executive Vice President, Research, Center for Automotive Research): In terms of improving vehicle price, reducing labor cost, running their plants efficiently - that's remarkable progress. And of course, that's the progress they want to show before they sell their common stock.
GLINTON: McAlinden says despite the last nine months of good news, there's a but - a question any investor has to ask of the new GM.
Dr. MCALINDEN: By the way, the last set of shareholders and bondholders you had, you totally screwed them. So why should I trust you now on nine months' worth of results?
GLINTON: Those results come after wage concessions and benefits cuts for employees and retirees. They, along with dealers, have the right to buy up to 800 shares of the new company at the initial price. But for many it's a tough, tough sell.
(Soundbite of conversations)
Mr. DOUG HANSCOM: Like the Buick commercial: It's not your father's Buick. It's just not GM anymore. It's - now its just another company.
GLINTON: I sat down with Doug Hanscom over coffee and bowls of crab chowder near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Hanscom got his start 32 years ago at a GM ball-bearing plant in Connecticut.
Mr. HANSCOM: We used to fabricate the ball-bearings from scratch. When the balls started coming in, in boxes from other plants and from Japan, we knew that the plant was destined to shut down.
GLINTON: That began Hanscom's life as what he calls a GM gypsy. He worked in four states in four plants, each one he saw close. Despite the hard feelings, Hanscom says he needs GM to succeed.
Mr. HANSCOM: They hold my pension and I would like them to be viable and make a profit. But I just don't trust the leadership. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out, but I'm not gonna buy their stock.
GLINTON: Hanscom says he'll wait and see.
Many other retirees are definitely leaning towards buying, like John Christie. He heads GM's Retirees Association. He spent 36 years on the job. Christie says he and other retirees are willing to invest in the new GM, on the hope they can get back some money they've lost on the nearly worthless old GM stock.
Mr. JOHN CHRISTIE (President, Retirees Association, GM): But as far as owning a share of a company that they put years and years of their lives into, for some reason other than just financial, I really haven't heard anybody say that they really want to be part of General Motors for that reason.
GLINTON: There's a significant lack of love from the people that you talk to.
Mr. CHRISTIE: Yeah.
GLINTON: Other car stocks have rallied in recent weeks. Also, investments in GM from China and foreign sovereign wealth funds could help drive up GM's stock price.
David Kotok invests for larger institutions and wealthy individuals. He says big Wall Street firms and foreign governments can afford to bet on GM stock.
Mr. DAVID KOTOK (Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors): There are those who think it may be an opportunity and they would speculate. And there are those who wonder whether or not the auto recovery can have enough robust activity to make the auto industry a long-term successful venture.
GLINTON: Kotok warns GM retirees, current workers and average investors to remain cautious.
Sonari Glinton, NPR News.