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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Einhorn Likes GM

David Einhorn has an amazing track record and is one of my favourite investors. His quarterly letters are a must read and outline his thesis on his long and short positions. In his recent letter, he makes a compelling case for GM shares. It was shocking to see just how much stronger the new GM is today and how low their break even point is.  It appears to be very undervalued on a normalized earnings basis. Of course, with lots of competition and huge capital investments its not an excellent company but this may be compensated by its low price. Einhorn's average cost is more than 21% higher than today's price.

The GM exert from his letter is below.

GM is the largest auto manufacturer in the United States. After the business failed under its legacy high-cost structure during the recession, the U.S. government bailed out the company and took over most of the ownership. Last November, GM completed an IPO of about 30% of its stock at $33 per share. The government continues to own about one-third of the company. After the IPO, the shares initially advanced to almost $40 before retreating. When the shares broke the IPO price, we determined that the shares were attractive, but only purchased a small position, believing that there might be a better opportunity later when the government exited the rest of its stock. Instead, during a weak third quarter where the market punished all cyclical stocks, the shares fell well below the price where we planned to add to our position. We decided that the shares were cheap enough that we were more than fully compensated for the possible overhang of the government’s stake, and we established a position at an average price of $25.78 per share.
 
GM is being priced by the market as a cyclical company trading at less than 6x this year’s earnings. While some may see it as normal to value cyclicals at low multiples of peak earnings, we believe that 2011 is not a peak and, in fact, is below mid-cycle. Prior to the crisis, U.S. auto sales ran between 15 and 19 million units for many years. While sales have bounced from the recession low to about 13 million units, GM is poised to grow earnings from both a return to mid-cycle volumes, which we estimate to be 15 million units, and from a coming major refresh of its North American product portfolio. The market appears focused on GM’s “legacy liabilities.” However, the new GM does not have pension and healthcare liabilities that are likely to over-run the company. Instead, GM sits with $33 billion of gross cash which represents nearly its entire current market capitalization. We see potential for GM to begin to return capital to shareholders over the next year. While we are cognizant of the various investment risks that include near-term global economic weakness and the government ownership overhang, we think these concerns are more than priced in at current levels and see significant upside even if the U.S. experiences a very slow "new normal" type of economic recovery. The shares ended the quarter at $20.18 each.

Disclosure: Long GM

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