Does GM Have an Investment Grade Credit Rating in Sight?

Dan Akerson

Dan Akerson, General Motors (NYSE:GM) chief executive officer, told analysts Wednesday, “When we first came out of bankruptcy, we were playing a lot of defense. Now we’re playing offense.”

And GM’s first target goal now that it’s on the attack? An investment grade credit rating.

According to Reuters, though the U.S. auto company is reluctant to disclose how soon it hopes to achieve its goal, a presentation given Wednesday by Akerson and Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann revealed the carmaker’s plans to target an investment grade rating as soon as possible, asserting, “We’re obviously working toward that…and something that we hope to achieve in the near term.”

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Back in January, Akerson wasn’t so cryptic when he revealed that GM was poised to achieve the rating by the end of 2013, later supported by the company’s treasurer. Since that time, the automaker has continued to prosper, reporting more profitable quarters, posting shares at the highest level in more than two years, and even recently announcing its plan to rejoin the Standard & Poor 500 Index.

Now, as GM works to stem losses in Europe and eventually buy back the rest of its shares from the U.S. Treasury — expected to be completed by April 2014 — it is focusing on following in Ford Motor Co’s (NYSE:F) footsteps which achieved its investment grade credit rating last year. This is an important step for the company as it will allow it to attain lower rates on borrowing while expanding the number of potential buyers for its bonds.

Despite GM’s promising recent success and the company’s commitment to its “fortress balance sheet,” many investors are holding out to see if GM can turn around its losses in Europe and continue to reinvest its cash in the business, to which Ammann asserts, “$8 billion in annual capital spending is the level investors should expect to see, plus or minus, on an ongoing basis.” He goes on to then explain that GM has worked to “[use] its cash to reinvest in the business, protect what it calls its “fortress balance sheet” and return money to shareholders.”

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The current focus for GM is investing in its operations, and earning an investment grade credit rating will only help continue the automaker’s efforts to further distance itself from its past history — the one some remember as “Government Motors.”

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