WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government is taking advantage of the recent run-up in General Motors stock to sell off another 30 million shares in the auto giant that it acquired in a bailout.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it will sell the shares, plus another 20 million owned by a United Auto Workers retiree health care trust, in a public offering after the market closes Thursday.
GM shares were down 47 cents, or 1.3 percent, at $34.49 in premarket trading Wednesday. But they hit $35.49 on Tuesday, the highest point since December of 2010, according to data provider FactSet.
The sale of 50 million shares, conducted by Citigroup Global Markets Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, will coincide with GM's re-entry into the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
In December, Treasury sold 200 million shares of GM stock back to the company. At that time, Treasury announced that it intended to sell its remaining 300 million shares of GM stock into the market by early 2014.
At the end of April, the latest report available, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker in 2008 and 2009. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole.
In January, Treasury began selling its GM stake and announced it planned to complete those sales by early 2014. So far this year, government has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion. That leaves 241.7 million shares of GM stock still in government hands. That stock would have to sell for about $78 per share for the government to recoup its total costs in the GM bailout.
GM nearly ran out of cash in 2008 and needed government money to survive a trip through bankruptcy reorganization.
Last year the company bought the 200 million shares from the government for $5.5 billion. GM's shares sold for $33 when they began publicly trading again in November 2010.