Buffett, Soros Sell GM Shares – But JPMorgan Bank Calls Maker’s Stock “Very Inexpensive”

by on May.16, 2014

GM's stock price has bouced a bit but largely been stuck in neutral over the past three months as the maker copes with its recall crisis.

Investors generally don’t like turmoil or uncertainty – something in abundant supply at General Motors these days, which may explain why the makers share price has been performing so poorly.

Yet even after expressing high hopes for the maker’s new CEO Mary Barra, mega-investor Warren Buffett has sold off a quarter of the GM shares held by his investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway. And he’s not alone. Other major investors, including George Soros’ Soros Fund Management, and David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital, have abandoned the maker in recent months, selling part or all of their holdings.

Insight!

Yet even while cautioning that GM will be taking an earnings hit for its latest series of recalls – six separate service actions covering nearly 3 million vehicles announced this week alone – influential JPMorgan’s auto analyst may have sent the sort of positive signal other investors are looking for.

“We note the recalls are very proactive in nature,” Brinkman wrote in a report to investors. “We see GM stock as very inexpensive.”

GM CEO Barra. Chief execs are often judged by how their stocks perform.

JPMorgan has cut its earnings estimates for the automaker from $2.8 billion to $2.6 billion for the current quarter. That reflects GM’s own guidance that the latest series of recalls announced this week will result in a $200 million write-down.

(GM smacked with record $35 million fine. Click Here for the full story.)

That follows the $1.3 billion hit the maker suffered during the first quarter, when it announced it would recall a total of 7 million vehicles, including 2.7 million sold in the U.S. with faulty ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.

GM could face further financial problems from its safety-related woes, the maker now having recalled 11.5 million vehicles since the start of the year. It agreed to pay a record $35 million fine for knowingly delaying the ignition switch recall by as much as a decade.

“What we cannot tolerate, what we will never accept, is a person or a company that knows danger exists and says nothing,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said during a press conference in Washington, D.C. “Literally silence can kill,” Foxx said, adding that “GM did not act and did not alert us in a timely manner. What GM did was break the law.”

(Feds want to change GM’s culture when it comes to safety. Click Here for the story.)

Meanwhile, the maker could pay significantly greater penalties to settle an investigation underway at the U.S. Justice Department – which in March fined Toyota $1.2 billion for its own recall delays. There are growing signs criminal charges could be pending. And there is a growing list of lawsuits targeting GM for its various safety problems, including the defective ignition switch.

(Five new GM recalls cover 2.7 million vehicles. Click Here for the latest.)

How much GMs recall woes have influenced investors is unclear, though analysts say that the uncertainty surrounding the issue could be steering at least some investors away.

What’s clear is that some of the maker’s biggest stockholders have bolted, or at least slashed their holdings.

Among them, Greenlight Capitol sold its entire 17 million shares during the first quarter of this year. (It also sold off its holding in Delphi, the mega-auto supplier that produced the suspect ignition switches.) And Omega Advisors has sold off its 1 million-share stake in the maker.

Others have reduced their holdings while maintaining still-sizable stakes. Billionaire Soros trimmed his stake from 4.9 million to 3 million shares. And Buffett has cut his holdings from 40 million to 30 million shares. The “Wizard of Omaha” had last August increased the Berkshire Hathaway stake by 60%, giving it control of 2.9% of GM’s outstanding stock.

The sudden cutback comes as a surprise, at least on the part of Buffett who had nothing but praise for GM CEO Mary Barra after a lunch meeting last month, declaring, “She’s dynamite. You couldn’t have a better executive. I was really impressed.”

Not everyone is walking away from GM, however. Appaloosa Management has added 3 million shares to its holdings in recent months, which now stand at 7.9 million shares. And John Paulson, head of the New York hedge fund Paulson & Co., doubled his stake to 4 million shares.

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One Response to “Buffett, Soros Sell GM Shares – But JPMorgan Bank Calls Maker’s Stock “Very Inexpensive””

  1. Doogie Snouser says:

    If Buffett and Soros are selling so should you! They are illuminati. They are on the inside! Don’t buy!