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Driven to slash costs

first_img GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said the agreement marks the largest reduction GM has ever announced in a single day. GM had asked the UAW to help it lower its health care costs before its contract with the union expires in 2007, and both parties have been negotiating since spring. Wagoner refused to say whether GM would have unilaterally lowered retiree benefits if the UAW hadn’t agreed to the concessions by Monday, although he has said in the past that the company had that option. “These negotiations were done in a positive, cooperative, problem-solving spirit,” Wagoner told employees at GM headquarters in Detroit. “While it may have taken some time to reach this cooperative solution, I think it was time well-spent.” The UAW said Monday that it agreed to the changes after an in-depth analysis of GM’s financial situation. “We believe it is clearly in the best interests of UAW-GM active workers, retirees and their families,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and chief GM negotiator Richard Shoemaker said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The carmaker also faces huge pension cost issues in the years ahead that some analysts said could push it into a bankruptcy reorganization. But for the day at least, investors saw the bright side of GM’s outlook. Its shares rose $2.11, or 7.5 percent, to close at $30.09 on the New York Stock Exchange. They gained 12 percent earlier in the day and have traded in a 52-week range of $24.67 to $42.22. GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer John Devine said the tentative agreement on health care would reduce GM’s retiree health care liabilities by about 25 percent, or $15 billion, over a seven-year period. It would cut GM’s annual employee health care expenses by about $3 billion on a pretax basis. Cash savings are estimated at around $1 billion a year. GM pays for health care for 750,000 U.S. hourly employees, retirees and their dependents. The company expects to spend $5.6 billion on health care this year. GM’s UAW members now pay 7 percent of their health care costs, while the company’s salaried employees pay 27 percent, according to GM. It’s not yet clear how that will change under the agreement. Himanshu Patel, an auto analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., said the agreement will make a substantial dent in GM’s $80 billion health care liability. But other analysts said the cuts might not stave off the red ink for very long, especially since GM could be liable for billions in benefits at parts supplier Delphi Corp., which has filed for bankruptcy protection. “These savings are a clear positive, but retiree liability cuts are likely to see some almost immediate offsets, from ongoing health care inflation, possible Delphi liability assumption and falling long-term rates,” Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Barry said in a note to investors. DETROIT – General Motors Corp., under mounting pressure to turn around its business after losing nearly $3 billion in the first nine months of the year, announced a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers on Monday that will help lower its spending on health care for workers and retirees. GM, the world’s largest automaker, said it lost $1.6 billion in the third quarter, or $2.89 per share, compared with a profit of $315 million, or 56 cents a share, a year ago. The loss included charges of $861 million for restructuring and lower asset values in North America and Europe. Prompted by its deteriorating credit rating, GM also said it might sell a controlling interest in its profitable finance arm, General Motors Acceptance Corp., despite the boost GMAC is giving to the struggling automaker’s bottom line. GM has been suffering from declining U.S. market share, rising costs for materials such as steel and a drop in sales of sport utility vehicles, the company’s longtime cash cows. It cut production by 20 percent in the first three quarters of this year, hurting profits. last_img

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