WASHINGTON — GMAC Inc. is planning an initial public offering in the next two years, the auto lender's chief executive testified during a congressional hearing Thursday.
GMAC Chief Executive Michael Carpenter's remarks came as Treasury Department officials declared GMAC well-capitalized after three injections of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
Jim Millstein, Treasury's chief restructuring officer, said he didn't anticipate GMAC needing more government money beyond the more than $16 billion in U.S. aid it has already received.
"No, I certainly hope not," he told members of the Congressional Oversight Panel, set up to oversee the government's financial-bailout programs.
Carpenter likewise said that the company doesn't expect the firm to seek additional government aid and that an IPO would allow the company to begin repaying around $17 billion in U.S. taxpayer loans, a process that he said could ultimately take several years. While the IPO is unlikely to allow a full repayment, Carpenter said, it would pave the way for subsequent offerings to complete the exit from government help. The firm is majority-owned by the U.S. government.
"This would allow us to return to being an investment-grade credit, reducing our capital requirements, and begin the process of paying back the U.S. taxpayer in full," Carpenter said.
Panel members pressed Carpenter on what it plans to do with its weak ResCap mortgage business, which has been a running issue for GMAC. Carpenter said the firm is exploring a number of options for the business, which he said has been successfully walled off from the rest of the organization, and that a strategic plan is in the works.
"I look at ResCap as a problem to be solved, not an opportunity," Carpenter said, noting that GMAC is in the process of selling some of its mortgage assets.
The hearing, examining the Obama administration's investment in the auto industry, began with testimony from Ron Bloom, the administration's chief auto adviser. Bloom said the future of the U.S. auto industry will depend on policymakers' ability to restore the flow of credit to dealers and their customers. Bloom and Millstein said the government remains a "reluctant" shareholder in GMAC and other private firms. The Treasury plans to exit its investment in the auto finance firm gradually, but as soon as possible.
They defended the administration's move to pump billions into the U.S. auto industry, and GMAC specifically, as necessary for broader economic health.
The said the moves have steadied the U.S. auto industry, with the value of vehicles made by U.S. auto makers "stabilizing." They also said the Treasury continues to move to wind down certain programs, including an aid program for auto supplies that is expected to wind down in April.
"While recognizing the need to avoid past excesses, a viable domestic auto industry cannot be sustained without improving the availability and affordability of credit to a more 'normalized' level," the Bloom and Millstein said in a joint statement.
The U.S. government has had to step in multiple times to inject capital into GMAC, General Motors Co.'s (GM) long-time captive finance subsidiary. Without government assistance, the two Treasury officials said, the company would have been forced to suspend credit to even creditworthy dealerships. That would have in turn cut down on auto orders that would have lead to less demand for auto makers.
"Without orders for cars, GM would have been forced to slow or shut down its factories indefinitely to match the drop in demand," they said. "Given its significant overhead, a slowdown or stoppage in production of this magnitude would have toppled GM."