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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Stakeholders share credit if Chrysler reports 1Q gains

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Stakeholders share credit if Chrysler reports 1Q gains

BY GREG GARDNER

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

When Chrysler reports what likely will be stronger-than-expected first-quarter financial results on Wednesday, credit shouldn't just go to the Auburn Hills automaker and its new Fiat leadership.

U.S. and Michigan taxpayers, former debt holders, the UAW's retiree health care trust and suppliers all played roles in helping Chrysler's expected progress:

• Taxpayers, through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, have provided more than $8.2 billion to Chrysler. The State of Michigan granted about $16 million in tax credits to spur Chrysler's investments at engine plants in Dundee and Trenton.

• Of the federal assistance, $2 billion went to debt holders -- more than 40 banks, hedge funds and private equity investors who then wrote off $6.9 billion in loans for 29 cents on the dollar.

• The UAW-Chrysler's Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association accepted an initial 68% of new Chrysler in exchange for about $5 billion Chrysler owed the retiree health care trust. That stake is to shrink to 55% as Fiat expands its stake from 20% to 35% over the next two years.

• Suppliers, similar to the debt holders, accepted far less from Chrysler for parts delivered prior to the bankruptcy than their contracts specified.

Chrysler also has cut costs by at least $3.8 billion over the last three years, mostly by laying off or buying out 5,000 white-collar workers and a comparable number of UAW people.

The automaker cut spending on rebates, cut-rate loans and other incentives by about 31% per vehicle so far this year. It has cut inventories from a bloated three months' supply a year ago to a leaner 58 days' supply at the end of March.

Most importantly, Chrysler produced 56% more vehicles in its North American factories than it made in the first three months of 2009.

But Chrysler still faces many challenges. Sales in the U.S. have fallen 5% compared with the same period a year ago, even though U.S. sales are up 15%.

Arbitrations are pending from more than 300 dealers whose franchise agreements Chrysler terminated, a distraction.

So while Chrysler can celebrate the good news on Wednesday, don't expect CEO Sergio Marchionne to answer all the questions that impatient taxpayers and investors have about recouping their contributions to the turnaround.

When will Chrysler repay the TARP money? The company has said it would before the end of 2014. That probably won't change this week.

When will the company offer stock to the public so the U.S. and Canadian governments can sell their collective 10% stake ? Not likely before Chrysler has reported at least two or three consecutive profitable quarters.

How many more Fiat, Alfa Romeo or Lancia models will be introduced to the U.S. and what brands will they bear? Marchionne and Fiat executives are expected to offer clues during a presentation Wednesday from Turin, Italy.

But before the accolades come rolling in on Chrysler's bottom line, remember it was truly a team effort.

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100420/BUSINESS01/4200311/1331/Stakeholders-share-credit-if-Chrysler-reports-1Q-gains

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