August 8, 2013 / 4:01 PM / in 4 years

GM's CFO says not just yet on hoped-for dividend

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (Reuters) - General Motors Co’s (GM.N) financial chief said on Thursday that the U.S. automaker has no current plans to pay a dividend on its common shares, a move that many investors have longed for.

General Motors Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann speaks during an interview with Reuters at GM's proving ground in Milford, Michigan June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

“We’re not paying a dividend at this point,” Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in northern Michigan. “It’s something we expect down the road.” He gave no time frame.

Chief Executive Dan Akerson said in June that the Detroit company would consider a dividend and further share buybacks going forward. He cited GM’s December repurchase of a block of U.S. Treasury shares for $5.5 billion and said GM might take a similar approach again.

GM last paid a dividend on common shares in May 2008 and two months later said it would suspend such payments. Weak industry demand then drove the company to seek bankruptcy protection in 2009 and it emerged as a leaner operation with more cash on hand with the help of a $49.5 billion U.S. taxpayer bailout.

GM does pay a dividend on preferred stock. Rival U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co (F.N) resumed paying a common dividend in March 2012 after suspending it for more than 5-1/2 years.

GM ended the second quarter with almost $35 billion in total automotive liquidity, and analysts said it could begin paying a dividend to common shareholders again once the U.S. government has exited its stake, which it has said will happen by April 2014. Treasury still owns a stake in GM of about 13.8 percent.

Ammann also said the decline in the value of the Japanese yen has created competitive challenges for GM in such markets as Southeast Asia and Australia.

“We’re seeing more pressure in those markets than in the U.S.,” he said.

In the second quarter, GM’s international operations unit, which includes Asia, took a $100 million hit to profit due to lower pricing on vehicles.

In Australia, GM will focus on its Holden brand, Ammann said. The company recently ended the distribution there of Opel-built vehicles. The Holden unit continues to supply a small number of vehicles to GM in the United States, most recently the 2014 Chevrolet SS sedan.

He also said GM does not expect a favorable pricing environment globally in the near future, but added that the company’s profit margin would improve as it introduces more new products. In the second quarter, GM benefited by about $400 million globally due to its ability to raise prices as it rolled out new vehicles.

GM is in the midst of a large overhaul of its vehicle lineup, including the June launch of its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks.

Ammann called management turnover at the company a “natural evolution.” GM has seen several recent exits of executives including the sudden resignation on Monday of Don Butler, who in April had been assigned to boost Cadillac’s international sales.

Ammann in a speech on Thursday offered the first look at the redesigned versions of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-sized pickups, which GM will start building late next year at its plant in Wentzville, Missouri.

The smaller trucks will join a lineup that includes the new big trucks that are so critical to the company’s profit. GM executives have said offering a full range of trucks is key to its strategy for hitting all types of truck buyers.

Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Matthew Lewis

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