GM Is Transparent Again, But You Won't Like What You See

Last Updated Apr 9, 2010 5:29 PM EDT

The good news is that General Motors is returning to financial transparency, an important first step before it can go public again.

The bad news is that transparency gave investors a good look at the fact that GM lost $4.3 billion from July 2009, when it emerged from bankruptcy, through the end of last year. It's impossible to compare apples to apples, but "New GM's" fourth-quarter pretax loss of about $4 billion was less than half the size of "Old GM's" pretax loss of about $8.7 billion.

Despite the recent loss, Chris Liddell, GM's new vice chairman and CFO, reiterated that GM still intends to attain profitability by the end of this year, and also to repay the remaining balance of GM's $8.3 billion government bailout by June.

"We are building the foundation that will allow us to return to public ownership," Liddell said in a written statement that was first released on April 7, and filed today with the SEC. Liddell joined GM in December from Microsoft (MSFT), where he had been CFO.

A key factor is that bankruptcy reorganization allowed GM to cut its liabilities by $83 billion, in part by paying creditors with stock in the company, instead of cash. GM has shed entire brands like Saturn and Pontiac, shut plants and cut jobs to reduce its breakeven point. It's also banking on new products later this year like the Chevy Cruze, Buick Regal and the Chevy Volt to reverse a slide in market share.

"As the results for 2009 show, there is still significant work to be done," Lidell said. "However, I continue to believe we have a chance of achieving profitability in 2010."

Chart: GM