Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Hopefully, that doesn’t prove to be the case forwhen it comes to its emerging jewel in South Korea, General Motors Daewoo Auto & Technology.
Some analysts say GMDAT, owned 48.2% by GM in a partnership with Japan’sand China’s Shanghai Auto, could be among assets GM is forced to sell as it looks to pile up cash to finance its costly and long-overdue restructuring.
GM already has dealt most of its 20.4% stake inand has put a 7.9% holding in Japan’s up for grabs. It recently sold a 51% share in its GMAC finance arm and dumped its 20% stake in Japan’s (Subaru).
Together, those transactions will net the auto maker something close to $17 billion.
But GM’s restructuring moves, which include plans to close 10 plants, cut at least 30,000 jobs and assist in the bailout of former parts arm, will require a ton of cash.
And that means almost nothing is sacred – which would be too bad in the case of GMDAT.
GM has had its share of international blunders over the years – some engineered under current CEO Rick Wagoner. That includes an equity tie-up with Italy’sthat went bad rather quickly and cost GM $2 billion to exit.
Some critics saw the 2000 purchase of assets from a bankrupt Daewoo Motor in South Korea as more money down the drain.
GM already had an earlier strategic tie-up with Daewoo that went sour. And other auto makers were avoiding the Daewoo asset auction like the plague, convinced the South Korean auto maker was better left for dead.
But in highly protracted negotiations, GM’s team poured over every detail on the books, lured in partners to help cover the investment and withstood anti-American pressure from Korea’s militant unions to put together a deal that made sense to the buyers and gave Daewoo a chance at a future.
Clearly it has. Last month, Wagoner was in South Korea to celebrate GMDAT’s first annual profit and production of more than 1 million vehicles in 2005.
It marks a significant comeback for the auto maker, which now is beginning to produce its first vehicles developed entirely under GM ownership, calling back the last of the 1,725 laid-off workers it inherited in 2000 and targeting a 30% rise in production this year to 1.5 million units.
A $95 million test track will be completed next year, and production recently was launched at a new $475 million diesel engine plant.
All that means GMDAT should continue to play a key role for GM. Asia is the industry’s No.1 growth market, and a production base like the one GMDAT offers could be critical to GM’s prosperity in the region – and its very survival overall.
“We’ve been successful…in producing something worthwhile,” GMDAT President and CEO Nick Reilly noted recently.
In the ongoing debate over whether the embattled Wagoner should stay atop GM or go, put his gamble on GMDAT solidly on the plus side of the ledger.