“This is the end, da, da, dum. Beautiful friend the end,” sang Jim Morrison in the Door’s classic elegy “The End.” Morrison named his band in honor of The Doors of Perception, a 1954 book by Aldous Huxley, describing Huxley’s trips on mescaline.
As the General Motors we know nears its end and the doors shut on some classic car brands, we have to reorient our perceptions about the company and its stock and its value.
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…strangers hand
In a…desperate land
All too often, investors who don’t understand the bankruptcy process buy shares of a company expected to go bankrupt in the misconception that if they buy now at a low price they can capture the upside when the company comes out of bankruptcy.
This is not the case. While General Motors may come back in some new form under the same name, the General Motors we know will soon be dead.
If a company doesn’t completely go out of business, it enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In this case the business is reorganized, instead of shutting down entirely. Still, in all forms of bankruptcy, the holders of common stock lose their entire investment in the company.
Bond holders are creditors. They’ve lent capital to the company, so the company owes them money. The bankruptcy changes those obligations, but often creditors receive something for their loans, even if it’s just pennies on the dollar. Sometimes bondholders are given stock in the new company to give them a chance to make back some of their money. But current shareholders hardly ever get new stock.
Common stock holders are the company’s owners. They hold equity. Because their surrogates, the board of directors and executives, did a poor job of running their company, they lose their ownership stake completely. To make it clearer, if you hold common stock the day before the company emerges from bankruptcy you lose everything. While holding the stock to the bitter end may give you a better tax write off, if you sell now, you will at least pocket some cash.
So, please, please, don’t buy GM thinking you can hold it through the bankruptcy. All the current common shares will disappear the moment they emerge from bankruptcy. Can you make some day trades with GM and try to capture the spread? Sure, but since this is so close to the end, the risk is very high that they could call it a day on the day you are holding it and they you would lose your investment. If you haven’t already, get out of GM.
ETF Trends has an interesting piece on which ETFs will be affected by Obama’s Auto and Fuel Efficiency Plan.
United States Oil (USO) and United States Gasoline (UGS) would be the ETFs most likely hurt from new fuel efficiency in cars. The PowerShares Wilderhill Clean Energy (PBW) would be a clear way to get in on the clean energy band wagon. ETFTrends also likes Vanguard Consumer Discretionary (VCR) saying consumers could do well if fuel efficiency lowers their gas bills. Finally, the E-TRACS UBS Long Platinum ETN (PTM) seems counter-intuitive. Platinum is used on catalytic converters. There should be fewer of these if the auto business goes through a contraction. However, the launch of a platinum ETF might spur heavy buying to fill the fund’s vaults. The ETN doesn’t actually hold platinum.
With this bankruptcy I think the bondholders may also wind up losing everything.