What does a company need to do to get kicked off of an index around here?
As of Friday, General Motors was still in the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If the indexes hold the stock until the company declares bankruptcy are the index funds and ETFs that track indexes with GM as a component obligated to hold it to the bitter end? Are they are allowed to sell it ahead of time or do they have to suck up the loss, even though everyone saw this coming from a mile away?
According to AOL Money & Finance, all of GM’s shares are now owned by large block holders. Institutions hold 36%, mutual funds, which includes ETFs, hold 62% and the rest with others like the executives. State Street Global Advisors hold the most GM shares of any institution, 26.9 million, or 4.37% of all the GM shares outstanding. Surprisingly, only 5.26 million of those shares reside in the SPDR Trust (SPY). Still that’s a big loss for one fund no matter how you slice it. Vanguard Group has the second most shares, 23.99 million, or 3.93% of the shares outstanding. However, four of its funds are in the top 10 holders, the Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX) has the most shares of any fund, 5.8 million. This is followed by Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund (VO), Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI) and Vanguard Institutional Index Fund. Barclays Global Investors, owner still of the iShares ETF family, comes in third with 17.8 million shares.
The shocking part is that according to Standard & Poor’s, a component of the S&P 500 needs to have a market cap of at least $3 billion. With 610 million shares outstanding, GM would have to trade at $5 to make that. But GM last saw $5 on its shares on Dec. 8, 2008, more than five months ago. It’s not like S&P doesn’t remove stocks from the index. It’s deleted nine companies already this year.
Peter Cohan knows how to evaluate a company. He’s amazing at looking under the hood and breaking apart a company’s financial statements to see the rotting husk of a business. At Daily Finance, he says the failure of GM matters because it shows of success can lead to failure and how now the U.S. can’t even fail right. Companies can’t shut down without government intervention. He adds that the U.S. system of economic growth, venture-backed innovation, has been nearly snuffed out and that is not good news.
Cohan also list the five big reasons why GM didn’t have to fail and squarely lays the blame at the feat of managers who were overly impressed with themselves for no good reason. The five reasons: 1) bad financial policies, 2) Uncompetitive vehicles, 3) ignoring competition, 4) failure to innovate, 5) managing the bubble. Ignoring the competition and failure to innovate are the worst crimes and that should justify Rick Wagoner’s firing pretty easily.