GM's $4.5B in notes will cut high-interest debt

General Motors to sell $4.5B in notes to pay off higher-interest debt to union trust funds

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors will sell $4.5 billion in bonds to reduce debts owed to union-run trusts that pay health care bills for the company's U.S. and Canadian retirees.

The company said Tuesday that it will spend $3.2 billion from the bond sale to buy 120 million shares of GM preferred stock from a U.S. trust that provides health care to retired members of the United Auto Workers union. The lower-interest bonds will replace a 9 percent annual dividend on the stock.

It's buying the U.S. trust's shares for $27 each, a $2 premium. After the sale closes, the U.S. trust still will hold 140 million preferred shares, which GM can buy back for $25 each at the end of next year

GM also will use $1.2 billion from the new bonds to pay off 7 percent notes, retiring the debt now held by a trust controlled by the Canadian Auto Workers union, now called Unifor.

GM said in a statement that the debt moves should add 11 cents per share to the company's earnings next year.

One-third of the new bonds pay a 3.5 percent interest rate, while another third are at 4.875 percent. The final third has a 6.25 percent rate. The notes mature in five, 10 and 30 years. The company expects to settle the bond sale on Friday, and will record an $800 million charge for the bonds in its third-quarter financial results.

Both the Canadian and U.S. trusts got the debt for agreeing to take on expensive retiree health care costs. The unions had agreed to the move in an effort to help GM through financial struggles.

GM on Monday announced that it would sell the bonds to retire the UAW trust debt, but it didn't state the size of the bond sale.

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