What GM's IPO means

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Tess Vigeland: GM filed the papers for its long-anticipated initial public offering late yesterday. You should be able to buy shares of the carmaker sometime in October. Now there's lots of chatter about that timing, right before the mid-term elections. An IPO could let the government, which owns 61 percent of GM, brag that it saved the car industry and recouped its investment.

But as Marketplace's Alisa Roth tells us, there's more to going public than just politics.


Alisa Roth: There's been speculation for months about when GM would be ready to go public again. Part of it is about wondering when we -- that is, the taxpayers -- might get some of our investment back. But going public is also a way of showing that it's back. That it hasn't just emerged from bankruptcy, but that it's really making it as a company.

Mary Ann Keller is an independent auto analyst. She says GM probably could raise more money if it waited longer to launch the IPO, assuming the economy gets better. But she thinks not being owned by the government is more important than the share price.

Mary Ann Keller: You also have a company that I think needs to become self-funding has to be able to access other forms of capital. Becoming public is part of that greater process.

Going public will let investors and lenders compare GM directly with its competition. That's important for a lot of reasons -- one of which is that GM needs to be able to borrow a lot of money. And if everybody can see how it's doing, it can get much better rates from lenders.

Bruce Belzowski is a researcher at the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan. He's worried going public again could hurt GM.

Bruce Belzowski: Do they return to short-term thinking versus long-term thinking for their company?

He says public companies often get too caught up in trying to please Wall Street, and they forget to do what's best for the company. He says one problem GM's management had before was thinking too much about short-term results.

Belzowski: The finance guys get too much into that, and they lose track of the product and they lose track of what the company stands for.

And that's vehicles, not stock price.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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