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Fri, Dec 26, 2008 - Page 10 News List

GM financial arm to become holding company for funds

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved a request by GMAC, the troubled financial arm of General Motors, to become a bank holding company, allowing it to tap government bailout funds and emergency loans.

The move, announced only hours before Christmas Day, boosts the prospects of General Motors after the US government last week approved a US$13.4 billion rescue loan package for GM and Chrysler to stave off collapse amid tight credit and dismal sales.

GMAC faced possible bankruptcy, jeopardizing financing for GM car dealers and customers, and its demise could have dragged down the Detroit automaker’s fortunes with it.

“In light of the unusual and exigent circumstances affecting the financial markets, and all other facts and circumstances, the Board has determined that emergency conditions exist that justify expeditious action on this proposal” for changing GMAC’s legal status, the Fed said in its decision, which the board approved four votes to one.

Under the move, GM and Cerberus Capital Management must reduce their ownership stakes in GMAC, the Fed said.

GM, which owns 49 percent of GMAC, has to cut its ownership share to less than 10 percent in voting shares and equity. Cerberus, the private equity owner of Chrysler, must reduce its 51-percent stake to no more than 14.9 percent in voting shares and 33 percent in total equity, the decision said.

The move will “benefit the public by strengthening GMAC’s ability to fund the purchases of vehicles manufactured by GM and other companies and by helping to normalize the credit markets for such purchases,” the Fed said.

GMAC chief executive Alvaro de Molina in a statement hailed the decision as “a key turning point” for the company.

“It is critically important to our company and the broader economy to resume responsible lending to consumers and businesses,” he said.

GMAC, by becoming a federally regulated bank holding company, becomes the latest firm to gain access to a share of the US$700 billion government bailout package initially introduced to shore up financial firms.

Debt-strapped GMAC had said earlier this month it did not expect the Federal Reserve would grant its request as it could not meet capital requirements.

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