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  1. Bush offers $17.4B to automakers Ford tells White House it doesn't need bailout loan Last Updated: Friday, December 19, 2008 | 12:14 PM ET CBC News U.S. President George W. Bush pauses during a statement on the auto industry at the White House on Friday in Washington. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press) Calling it the "more responsible option," U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday dipped into the massive financial bailout package to offer $17.4 billion US in short-term loans to automakers. "If we were to allow the free market to take its course now, it would almost certainly lead to disorderly bankruptcy and liquidation for the automakers," he said during a news conference at the White House. "Under ordinary circumstances, I would say this is the price that failed companies must pay. These are not ordinary circumstances." U.S. stocks rose in trading on Friday after the president's announcement. U.S. president-elect Barack Obama praised the announcement. "Today's actions are a necessary step to help avoid a collapse in our auto industry that would have devastating consequences for our economy and workers," he said. "With the short-term assistance provided by this package, the auto companies must bring all their stakeholders together — including labour, dealers, creditors and suppliers — to make the hard choices necessary to achieve long-term viability." TARP loans The loans will come from the $700-billion financial market rescue package approved by Congress in October, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The loans will be handed out in December and January, but will be recalled if the companies are not viable by March 31, 2009. GM CEO Rick Wagoner told reporters in Detroit that he doesn't think the March deadline is impossible. "What we need to do is show we can get that stuff done on the required timeframe, and then on the basis of that we will develop future projections for the company, and I'm highly confident we'll be able to meet that test," he said. The plan requires firms to accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate certain corporate perks, such as company jets. "The automakers and its unions must understand what is at stake and make hard decisions necessary to reform," Bush said. White House officials said Ford has told them it doesn't need the loan, so the money will likely go to General Motors and Chrysler. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli thanked the Bush administration for the help, saying it would get the companies through their immediate needs and on the path back to profitability. Ford CEO Alan Mulally said the bailout will help stabilize the industry, even though his company doesn't immediately need cash. "The U.S. auto industry is highly interdependent, and a failure of one of our competitors would have a ripple effect that could jeopardize millions of jobs and further damage the already weakened U.S. economy," Mulally said. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Congress should authorize the use of the second $350 billion from TARP. Tapping the fund for the auto industry basically exhausts the first half of the $700-billion total, he said. Collapse would be 'painful blow' Bankruptcy was unlikely to work for the auto industry at this time because the global financial crisis pushed the automakers to the brink of bankruptcy faster than they could have anticipated, Bush said. "They have not made the legal and financial preparations necessary to carry out an orderly bankruptcy proceeding that could lead to a successful restructuring," he said. Consumers, already wary of additional spending, will be more hesitant to buy a Big Three auto if they think their warranties will become worthless, said the president. "Such a collapse would deal a painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry." Bush said the "more responsible option" is to provide short-term loans to give the companies time to either restructure, or set up the legal and financial frameworks necessary to declare bankruptcy. The Senate failed to pass a $14-billion US bailout package to the automakers last week. Earlier this month, Ottawa and the government of Ontario reached a deal to offer money to Canada's auto industry based on a proportion of any package agreed to by U.S. officials. Auto sales have dropped drastically, with carmakers reporting their lowest sales in 26 years. With files from the Associated Press
  2. As the Economy Worsens, Is There Money for Play? The economy was a factor in a recent merger involving Dale Earnhardt’s team, left. General Motors often runs Super Bowl commercials, center, and sponsors events like the baseball All-Star Game. By KATIE THOMAS Published: November 15, 2008 From the “Buick” emblazoned on Tiger Woods’s golf bag to the Chevrolet Camaro that Cole Hamels drove home last month for being named the most valuable player of the World Series, it is hard to be a sports fan without stumbling across some type of advertisement for General Motors. The company consistently ranks first among advertisers of televised sporting events, outspending other automakers by more than two to one. Billy Casper, left, received a car for winning the inaugural Buick Open in 1958. The tournament has been a PGA Tour staple. But as G.M. faces a financial crisis that has executives pleading with Congress for a federal bailout, many are wondering how far the company’s troubles will extend into the sports industry, which is already struggling to attract advertisers and sponsors in a weakened economy. “It’s one of those trickle-down effects that people don’t look at,” said David E. Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit research organization. “It has already hit hard.” G.M. has been scaling back its sports presence for at least a year. Cadillac, a G.M. brand, withdrew its sponsorship of the Masters golf tournament in January, and this summer, G.M. ended its relationships with two Nascar racetracks: Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The company is not renewing its longstanding partnership with the United States Olympic Committee when their contract expires at the end of this year. In one of the most dramatic examples of the company’s diminishing sports profile, G.M. said recently that it would not buy television commercials in this season’s Super Bowl broadcast. As G.M. argues its case before Congress, some firms whose contracts with the company are up for renewal are anxiously monitoring developments. “We’re actually in negotiations as we speak,” said Mitch Huberman, the senior vice president of Fox Sports Enterprises, which owns Pac-10 Properties and handles marketing for the Pacific-10 conference. Its contract with Pontiac, also produced by G.M., ends this year. “There are a lot of question marks in terms of where budgets are going,” Huberman said. “It’s kind of wait and see.” G.M., hit hard by plummeting consumer spending and tight credit markets, has reported that it is running out of cash and faces bankruptcy if it does not receive emergency federal assistance. In its third-quarter report, released earlier this month, the company said it planned to trim advertising by 20 percent and promotional spending by 25 percent. “We’re looking at literally everything,” said Peter Ternes, G.M.’s director of communications for sales, service and marketing. He said the cuts would be applied evenly but did not provide details about proposed changes to the company’s sports budget. Still, he said G.M. would not withdraw from sports entirely. “I think we’ll still be there,” he said. “It may not be at the volume that people have seen before, but we’ll still be a presence.” G.M.’s troubles come at a time when sports organizations are struggling to attract sponsors in a weak economy. The Nascar teams Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., citing a difficult economic climate, announced a merger last week. On Friday, the Tour de Georgia, one of the nation’s premier cycling events, said it was canceling its 2009 race because it could not find a sponsor. Also on Friday, Nascar said it was suspending all testing at its tracks next season as a cost-cutting measure. Like beer and razors, automobiles have long been a staple of commercials during major sporting events, and for good reason, marketing experts said. At a time when digital video recorders and an array of cable channels have splintered television audiences, sporting events attract a large and passionate audience who often watch events as they happen. G.M. has historically taken advantage of this audience by investing heavily in television advertising. The company has been the top TV sports advertiser for at least the last five years, vastly outspending its nearest competitors. For example, in 2007, G.M. spent close to $578 million on TV sports advertising. The No. 2 advertiser, Toyota, spent less than half that, or nearly $287 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. Earlier this year, General Motors aired 11 advertisements during the Super Bowl, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a research firm. The decision not to buy a Super Bowl ad in 2009 may have more to do with public perception than with the company’s cash-strapped predicament. This year’s spots are each selling for $3 million, a fraction of G.M.’s total sports spending. However, if the company were to receive a federal bailout, airing a Super Bowl commercial could anger taxpayers who see the purchase as extravagant, said Kenneth L. Shropshire, the director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. “Then people are saying, was that the right use of money for a one-day sporting event?” he said. Although executives for several television outlets would not speak publicly, several said their sales representatives had detected a shift in G.M.’s ad purchases — what some called a “flight to quality” — toward programs that have proved successful in the past. And although G.M. recently scaled back its presence on networks in prime time, one network television executive said sports remained a “stable destination.” There are signs that G.M. is continuing to invest in some sports. About a year ago, Chevrolet extended its sponsorship of Major League Baseball through the 2010 season. Ternes, the G.M. spokesman, pointed to plans by the company to invest heavily in next year’s N.C.A.A. men’s Final Four in Detroit, the nation’s automobile capital. On the surface, organizations with existing agreements with G.M. may consider a bailout a preferable outcome, because under a bankruptcy, the company could ask a court to void contracts. But because a federal bailout would also very likely lead to significant restructuring, some said G.M. could be compelled to try to renegotiate active contracts anyway. “With the bailout probably comes strings attached, and what those strings are, who knows?” said Greg Brown, the president of Learfield Sports, which handles marketing for 50 university athletic programs. Rather than seek to cancel existing contracts, several sports executives said G.M. and other companies were more likely to scale back promotions and focus on initiatives that led directly to a sale. “If you’re on the verge of bankruptcy, then you want to find out how to get the money now, rather than how do I get the 15-year-old to start thinking about the car they want to buy in the future?” Shropshire said. Sponsors may focus on promotions that draw fans to dealerships, like T-shirt giveaways or ticket sweepstakes, said Jim Andrews, the editorial director of IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication. Sponsorships, he added, can also create a “warm, fuzzy” perception that a company is supporting a customer’s favorite team. “That’s why you’re not seeing any of the automakers, even though they are in dire straits, saying we’ve got to pull out wholesale,” Andrews said. “Because I think they know there is a return on investment.” In some cases, foreign automakers have stepped in when American companies have pulled out. Chevrolet, for example, decided not to renew its sponsorship of the United States Ski Team last year, but Audi took its place. Honda recently replaced Dodge as the official automobile of the N.H.L. Although the troubles in Detroit played a role in that outcome, Honda fit better within the N.H.L.’s goal of becoming a more international brand, according to Keith Wachtel, the league’s senior vice president for corporate sales and marketing. But for now, marketers at a variety of sports organizations say they are in for some tough times. “In this environment, autos are going to be off across the board,” said Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the PGA Tour. Two of its tournaments are sponsored by Buick through 2010, and others are sponsored by Chrysler, BMW, Honda and Mercedes. “They’re doing, in varying degrees, terrible,” he said. “The U.S. automakers are really struggling. Now, who knows?” Finchem, however, said he was confident the companies would remain in business, which meant “they’re still going to be selling cars and, again, we have a good platform from which they can promote.”
  3. Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Senate rejected a $14 billion bailout plan for U.S. automakers, in effect ending congressional efforts to aid General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which may run out of cash early next year. “I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said before the vote in Washington. “It’s not going to be a pleasant sight.” The Bush administration will “evaluate our options in light of the breakdown in Congress,” spokesman Tony Fratto said. The Senate thwarted the bailout plan when a bid to cut off debate on the bill the House passed yesterday fell short of the required 60 votes. The vote on ending the debate was 52 in favor, 35 against. Earlier, negotiations on an alternate bailout plan failed. GM said in a statement, “We are deeply disappointed that agreement could not be reached tonight in the Senate despite the best bipartisan efforts. We will assess all of our options to continue our restructuring and to obtain the means to weather the current economic crisis.” Reid said millions of Americans, “not only the autoworkers, but people who sell cars, car dealerships, people who work on cars,” will be affected. “It’s going to be a very, very bad Christmas for a lot of people as a result of what takes place here tonight.” Asian stocks and U.S. index futures immediately began falling after Reid’s comments. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 2.2 percent to 86.13 as of 12:33 p.m. Tokyo time, while March futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 3.4 percent. ‘Deja Vu’ “Remember when the first financial bailout bill failed” in Congress in late September, said Martin Marnick, head of equity trading at Helmsman Global Trading Ltd. in Hong Kong. “The markets in Asia started the slide. Deja vu, this looks like it’s happening again.” Congress approved a financial-rescue plan weeks later. Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, urged the Bush administration to save the automakers by tapping the $700 billion bailout fund approved earlier this year for the financial industry. “If this is the end, then I think they have to step in and do it -- it’s needed even though they don’t want to do it,” Voinovich said. Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd, who helped lead the negotiations, said the final unresolved issue was a Republican demand that unionized autoworkers accept a reduction in wages next year, rather than later, to match those of U.S. autoworkers who work for foreign-owned companies, such as Toyota Motor Corp. ‘Saddened’ “More than saddened, I’m worried this evening about what we’re doing with an iconic industry,” Dodd said. “In the midst of deeply troubling economic times we are going to add to that substantially.” Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, who negotiated with Dodd, said, “I think there’s still a way to make this happen.” Earlier today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino warned that an agreement was necessary for the U.S. economy. “We believe the economy is in such a weakened state right now that adding another possible loss of 1 million jobs is just something” it cannot “sustain at the moment,” Perino said. Also earlier, South Dakota Republican John Thune suggested that if talks collapsed, the Bush administration might aid automakers with funds from the financial-rescue plan approved by Congress in October. “I think that is where they go next,” Thune said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they explore all options.” The Bush administration thus far has opposed that option, which was favored by Democrats. To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at [email protected] Hughes in Washington at [email protected] Last Updated: December 11, 2008 23:34 EST http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aDkK4lEZsSsA&refer=home
  4. Senate passes bailout Plan to buy $700B in troubled assets wins OK. Backers hope add-ons will yield more yes-votes in House. By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer Last Updated: October 1, 2008: 10:20 PM ET NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Senate on Wednesday night passed a sweeping and controversial financial bailout similar in key ways to one rejected by the House just two days earlier. The measure was passed by a vote of 74 to 25 after more than three hours of floor debate in the Senate. Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and John McCain, R-Arizona, voted in favor. Like the bill the House rejected, the core of the Senate bill is the Bush administration's plan to buy up to $700 billion of troubled assets from financial institutions. Those assets, mostly mortgage-related, have caused a crisis of confidence in the credit markets. A major aim of the plan is to free up banks to start lending again once their balance sheets are cleared of toxic holdings. But the Senate legislation also includes a number of new provisions aimed at Main Street. The changes are intended to attract more votes in the House, in particular from House Republicans, two-thirds of whom voted against the bailout plan. The House is expected to take up the Senate measure for a vote on Friday, according to aides to Democratic leaders. The legislation, if passed by the House, would usher in one of the most far-reaching interventions in the economy since the Great Depression. Advocates say the plan is crucial to government efforts to attack a credit crisis that threatens the economy and would free up banks to lend more. Opponents say it rewards bad decisions by Wall Street, puts taxpayers at risk and fails to address the real economic problems facing Americans. "If we do not act responsibly today, we risk a crisis in which senior citizens across America will lose their retirement savings, small businesses won't make payroll ... and families won't be able to obtain mortgages for their homes or cars," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moments before the vote. In a press briefing after the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. R-Ky., said, "This is a measure for Main Street, not Wall Street. [it will help] to unfreeze our credit markets and get the American economy working again." Because of Senate add-ons, the bill's initial price tag will be higher than the $700 billion that the Treasury would use to buy troubled assets. But over time, supporters say, taxpayers are likely to make back much if not all of the money the Treasury uses because it will be investing in assets with underlying value. How the Senate bill differs The package adds provisions to the House version - including temporarily raising the FDIC insurance cap to $250,000 from $100,000. It says the FDIC may not charge member banks more to cover the increase in coverage. But that doesn't prevent the agency from raising premiums to cover existing concerns with the insurance fund, according to Jaret Seiberg, a financial services analyst at the Stanford Group, a policy research firm. Instead, the bill allows the FDIC to borrow from the Treasury to cover any losses that might occur as a result of the higher insurance limit. The bill also adds in three key elements designed to attract House Republican votes - particularly popular tax measures that have garnered bipartisan support. It would extend a number of renewable energy tax breaks for individuals and businesses, including a deduction for the purchase of solar panels. The Senate bill would also continue a host of other expiring tax breaks. Among them: the research and development credit for businesses and the credit that allows individuals to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal returns. In addition, the bill includes relief for another year from the Alternative Minimum Tax, without which millions of Americans would have to pay the so-called "income tax for the wealthy." The debate over extending AMT relief is an annual political ritual. It enjoys bipartisan support but deficit hawks on both sides of the aisle contend the cost of providing that relief should be paid for. Others argue it shouldn't be paid for because the AMT was never intended to hit the people the relief provisions would protect. Nevertheless, lawmakers pass the measure every year or two. How Senate bill mimics House version For all the sweeteners added to the Senate bill, however, it is similar to the House bill in many key ways. The core is the Treasury's proposal to let financial institutions sell to the government their troubled assets, mostly mortgage-related. And as in the House bill, the Senate would only allow the Treasury access to the $700 billion in stages, with $250 billion being made available immediately. The Senate bill is also similar in that it includes a number of provisions that supporters say would protect taxpayers. One would direct the president to propose a bill requiring the financial industry to reimburse taxpayers for any net losses from the program after five years. And the Treasury would be allowed to take ownership stakes in participating companies. Like the House version, the Senate bill includes a stipulation that the Treasury set up an insurance program - to be funded with risk-based premiums paid by the industry - to guarantee companies' troubled assets, including mortgage-backed securities, purchased before March 14, 2008. And it would place curbs on executive pay for companies selling assets or buying insurance from Uncle Sam. One provision: Any bonus or incentive paid to a senior executive officer for targets met would have to be repaid if it's later proven that earnings or profit statements were inaccurate. Lastly, the Senate version would set up two oversight committees. A Financial Stability Board would include the Federal Reserve chairman, the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, the Federal Home Finance Agency director, the Housing and Urban Development secretary and the Treasury secretary. A congressional oversight panel, to which the Financial Stability Board would report, would have five members appointed by House and Senate leadership from both parties. Differing views Despite the Senate bill's sweeteners, the bill did not garner unanimous support because those who oppose the Treasury plan felt passionately it was the wrong approach. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a champion of the energy tax breaks in the bill, said on Wednesday afternoon she nevertheless would vote against the bill because she opposes "giving the keys to the Treasury over to the private sector." Opponents of the bill have said they resented being given a "my way or the highway" choice to address what they acknowledge is a very serious economic threat. During the Senate debate on Wednesday, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., characterized the administration's request to lawmakers 12 days ago as "crying 'Fire!' in a crowded theater, then claiming the only [way out] is to tear down the walls when there are many exit doors." Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said the Senate will have "failed the American people" by acting hastily. "I agree we need to do something. ... [but] we haven't spent any time figuring out whether we've picked the best choice." Supporters of the bill say they hate the position they are in and are angry, too, but say it's better to do something now than to let the credit crunch persist. "There's no doubt that there may be other plans out there that, had we had two or three or six months to develop ... might serve our purposes better," said Obama during the floor debate. "But we don't have that kind of time. And we can't afford to take a risk that the economy of the United States of America and, as a consequence, the worldwide economy could be plunged into a very, very deep hole." Potential costs The tax provisions of the Senate bill - the bulk of which come from the addition of tax breaks from other legislation - may reduce federal tax revenue by $110 billion over 10 years, according to estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation. More than half of that is due to the 1-year extension of AMT relief. The Congressional Budget Office said it cannot estimate the net budget effects of the troubled asset program because of the many unknowns about that piece of the bill. However, the agency noted in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, it expects the program "would entail some net budget cost" but that it would be "substantially smaller than $700 billion." Overall, the CBO said, "the bill as a whole would increase the budget deficit over the next decade." All eyes on House Now the fate of the bailout rests with the House. "The reality has hit some members," said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., late Wednesday on CNN. "The main change is reality - it's not possible now to scoff at the predictions of doom if we don't do anything." The lead House Republican, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, was consulted on the Senate's plans and gave his "green light," spokesman Kevin Smith said. "We believe we'll have a better chance to pass this bill than the one that failed [Monday]," he added. The plan could attract House Republicans while simultaneously alienating bailout supporters among the Democrats because the tax cuts in the revenue bill aren't offset by spending cuts or increased revenues. President Bush, following the Senate vote, said the bill was central to the "financial security" of the nation. "The American people expect - and our economy demands - that the House pass this good bill this week and send it to my desk." - CNN's Jessica Yellin, Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this story. To top of page First Published: October 1, 2008: 12:00 PM ET
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