Banking & Finance

GM Buys AmeriCredit, Taking $11.40 From Every American (ACF)

General Motors must think that doing big deals after taxpayer bailouts does not apply to it in the new normal.   Will buying a finance company really help it meet customer demand for leasing and non-prime financing for GM vehicles?  The government-owned company just announced that it will acquire AmeriCredit Corp. (NYSE: ACF) in an all-cash transaction valued at about $3.5 billion.  AmeriCredit shareholders will receive $24.50 in cash for each share of stock held as of the transaction closing date, which is expected in Q4-2010.

AmeriCredit is best-known for non-prime financing, which is the Street term for low credit score lending.  This is a business that GM could have replicated without spending $3.5 billion.

Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre noted, “Adding AmeriCredit to our team will improve our competitiveness in auto financing offerings…”  GM feels this will give it a more complete range of financing options. After the deal closes, AmeriCredit intends to re-enter the leasing business and GM notes that this will provide expanded leasing availability for all GM customers.

AmeriCredit has relationships with about 4,000 GM dealers and it will continue to offer our loan products to more than 11,000 dealers across the country. AmeriCredit management will remain in place.  The company has total assets of about $10 billion.

The boards of directors have approved the deal, but the vote will still be required by shareholders.  The prior 52-week trading range is $13.48 to $26.49, and shares are up 22% at $24.03 on more than 10 million shares at the open.

This feels like a huge double-standard.  GM was bailed out by the government and by taxpayers.  The company went into bankruptcy.  It plans to relaunch via an IPO soon.  And now it wants to spend $3.5 billion to acquire a finance company that almost brings back the realm of certain aspects of GMAC and all the extended financing it had.

AmericCredit was a $30 stock less than 5-years ago and far higher before then.  Some AmeriCredit shareholders may want a higher price.  It won’t take too long for the law firms to file their “exploring” press releases over whether to file class action suits.

Imagine if this was a bank that was still on shaky ground doing this deal….  This just feels like a huge double-standard.  Oh well, with roughly 307 million Americans, $3.5 billion means that GM is only using $11.40 per US citizen to do this acquisition.

JON C. OGG