General Motors has the potential to make huge pretax profits once global auto sales fully recover, the company's chief financial officer said Thursday in a video presentation that was posted online.
The video with CFO Chris Liddell's comments is the foundation for GM's "road show" -- presentations that start Friday and aim to court investors for an initial public stock offering. The stock sale will take place on Nov. 18.
Liddell said GM's cost structure, significantly improved in last year's bankruptcy restructuring, has enabled it to break even at the low point in a cyclical auto sales slump. In the middle of a cycle, the company can make $11 billion to $13 billion a year before taxes. When sales fully recover, it could make $17 billion to $19 billion pretax, with about a 10 percent profit margin, Liddell said.
In the first half of this year, GM made $2.8 billion before taxes, but 2010 is toward the bottom of the sales slump with annual sales expected to total around 11.5 million vehicles.
Liddell also said in the video that lower labor costs and debt have cut the company's break-even point to the range of 10.5 million to 11 million in annual U.S. sales. In the past, the break-even point was 15.5 million in sales, Liddell said.
Liddell also said GM would have "minimal" interest costs and tax payments due to significant tax losses from prior years.
"I hope we can welcome you as investors in the new GM," Liddell said in the video, posted on the website www.retailroadshow.com.
Starting Friday, GM executives will travel to world financial centers to pitch the stock offering in two teams, one headed by Liddell and the other by Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, a former Wall Street analyst.
In the offering, GM's owners, including the U.S. government, plan to sell 365 million shares for $26 to $29 each in a historic offering. The final price is expected to be announced Nov. 17.
The sale is expected to bring in $10 billion, with around $7 billion going to the U.S. Treasury to help repay $50 billion in government aid that got GM through bankruptcy protection last year.
GM said in the videos that two-thirds of its sales now come from outside North America, which in past years was its largest market.
Its executives touted growth in China, Brazil and other emerging markets. And the lead pitch in the presentation is about fast-growing emerging markets such as China.
With its joint venture partners, GM said it is the No. 1 auto seller in China, the world's fastest-growing market. GM, according to the slides, had a 13.3 percent share of Chinese sales last year, followed by Volkswagen with a 10.5 percent market share.
"We have a great business in China that's paying us cash dividends," Tim Lee, president of GM's International Operations, said in the video.
GM's sales there have grown 24-fold since 2000, from 75,000 vehicles to 1.8 million last year.
The automaker said Thursday that it's sold 1.98 million vehicles in China already this year, a 36 percent gain, including 200,000 vehicles in October.
By contrast, rival Ford Motor Co., which got a later start in China, sold only 468,754 cars and trucks there during the first nine months of this year.
China is on pace to become GM's largest market for the first time. Through October, GM sold 1.8 million vehicles in the U.S.
With that sales growth, China is a huge contributor to GM's bottom line. The company made $734 million after taxes from its two big joint ventures there in the first half of this year, about a third of the entire company's $2.2 billion in net income.
Little was said in the presentation about GM's money-losing European operations, which GM is trying to restructure. The European Opel and Vauxhall brands lost $200 million during the first half of the year.
And the company didn't address a lack of continuity and minimal automotive experience among its top managers. CEO Dan Akerson, a telecommunications executive, is GM's fourth CEO in less than two years.