GM Reports $2.5B 3Q Loss, Says Running Out of Cash

DETROIT, Mich. (AP) -- General Motors Corp. said Friday it lost $2.5 billion in the third quarter and warned that it could run out of cash in 2009 if the U.S. economic slump continues and it doesn't get government aid.

GM also said it has suspended talks to acquire Chrysler. While it didn't specifically name the automaker, GM said it was setting aside considerations for a "strategic acquisition."

"While the acquisition could potentially have provided significant benefits, the company has concluded that it is more important at the present time to focus on its immediate liquidity challenges and, accordingly, considerations of such a transaction as a near-term priority have been set aside," the company's said in a statement.

The automaker said its cash burn for the quarter accelerated to $6.9 billion, and government aid will be "essential" because of the slow economy and credit crisis.

The move comes hours after Ford Motor Co. said it lost $129 million for its third quarter and will cut about 2,260 more white-collar workers in North America as the industry tries to weather the worst economic downturn in decades. As U.S. and global economies have rapidly deteriorated, auto sales have nearly shut down.

GM said government aid is "essential" to help the U.S. auto industry through the downturn.

"The third quarter was especially challenging for the auto industry. Consumer spending, which represents close to 70 percent of the U.S. economy, fell dramatically, and the abrupt closure of credit markets created a downward spiral in vehicle sales," Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement.

The automaker reported a net loss of $4.45 per share during the quarter, compared with a record-setting loss of $39 billion, or $68.85 per share, a year ago. Its adjust loss was $4.2 billion, or $7.35 a share, with an adjusted loss of $2.8 billion for its automotive operations.

Revenue fell to $37.9 billion from $43.7 billion, due largely to credit freezing across the globe.

The loss exceeded Wall Street estimates. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a loss of $3.70 per share on sales of $39.4 billion.

The struggling company announced it would improve liquidity by $5 billion by the end of next year by cutting capital spending, reducing sales promotions, and further cutting production in the first quarter.

The company also suspended its matching contribution for employee 401K plans, and suspended tuition reimbursement. In addition, salaried employees will not get incentive pay next year for their work in 2008, GM said.

GM increased its plan to reduce salaried worker costs to 30 percent. During the summer, the company announced a 20 percent cut.

"Even if GM implements the planned operating actions that are substantially within its control, GM's estimated liquidity during the remainder of 2008 will approach the minimum amount necessary to operate its business," the company said in a news release.

"Looking into the first two quarters of 2009, even with its planned actions, the company's estimated liquidity will fall significantly short of that amount unless economic and automotive industry conditions significantly improve" or it receives government funding, the news release said.

GM said it had $16.2 billion in cash, marketable securities and readily available assets at the end of September, down $4.8 billion from the $21 billion it reported on June 30.

GM has said in the past it needs a minimum of $11 billion to $14 billion to run the company.

GM shares fell 68 cents, or 14 percent, to $4.12 in morning trading.

The company also said it will slow down assembly line rates at North American factories beginning next year, but it gave no details. It also said several vehicle new vehicle programs would be delayed, but it would spend more on its Chevrolet Volt electric car and other fuel-efficiency programs.

Ford said in its earnings report earlier in the day that it burned through $7.7 billion in cash in the third quarter.

Its global automotive operations had a pretax loss of $2.9 billion for the quarter, compared with a pretax loss of $362 million a year earlier.

Sales fell 22 percent to $32.1 billion from $41.1 billion due to lower volume and the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover.

"While Ford has been dramatically affected by the difficult business environment, we remain absolutely convinced that we have the right plan and are taking the right actions to weather this difficult period and emerge as a lean, globally integrated company poised for long-term profitable growth," Alan Mulally, president and chief executive, told industry analysts during a teleconference.

Ford shares fell 9 cents to $1.89 in midday trading.

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