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US Treasury reduced GM ownership to 18 percent since January

The U.S. Treasury is following through on its announcement late last year that it will sell its remaining stake in General Motors in an "orderly" fashion, within 12 to 15 months.

The U.S. Treasury held a 22 percent stake in GM on December 19, 2012.

Since January, the agency has sold 58,392,078 shares of GM stock at an average price of $28.04 each, reducing its GM ownership to 18 percent.

If the Treasury continues the sell-off at that same pace, it will sell its last remaining stock by early April 2014.

The sell-off will be at a significant loss to taxpayers.  The federal government, under the Bush and then Obama administrations, invested $49 billion to save GM from dissolution. Most of the investment was converted to stock after the Obama administration's Auto Task Force decided the automaker would be unable to survive with so much debt.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the federal agency created to oversee the TARP bailout program, estimates that the U.S. Treasury's remaining shares would have to be sold for $82.21 apiece to break even on the GM investment.  That would be a staggering increase from the average $28.04 per share in the first quarter of this year.

Federal officials say the TARP investment was well worth it, even if some ten or twenty billion is never recovered.  Officials say the action saved at least one million U.S. jobs and prevented a deeper recession.

Even competitors of GM - most notably, Ford Motor Company - urged the government to save the automaker in order to prevent a collapse of the entire U.S. auto industry. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.