Nothing good about General Motors even less that’s good about Peugeot
September 7, 2012 7:24PM
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:12AM
D ear Mr. Berko: When you spoke at our fundraiser in June, you made this comment: “A good time to buy a good stock is when you have the money, but the best time to buy a good stock is when nobody wants to own it.”
My husband is from France, and we own an old Citroen, which is a great automobile. What do you think of Peugeot shares, which trade on NASDAQ, and General Motors? Both of them are way down from their high prices from more than a year ago. We have an unexpected $16,000 to invest from some inherited acreage we thought was worthless, and my husband would like to own Peugeot, and because I own a Chevrolet Tahoe, I would like to buy GM. What do you think?
Dear GA: I think you’re both goofier than a school of oaf fish. I admit authorship of that comment, but please read it again. Note that I said “good stock,” so you are guilty of a dangerous assumption by ascribing the adjective “good” to General Motors and Peugeot. There’s nothing good about General Motors (GM — $21), home-ported in Detroit, a lovely Michigan city that has the most corpulent cops in the country. And there’s even less that’s good about Peugeot (PEUGF — $10), home-ported in Paris, where most folks speak French, a silly-sounding language that always seems to have a different word for everything.
GM’s 210,000 handsomely paid employees make cars, trucks, vehicle parts and materiel for the Army, Navy and Air Force, accounting for $21 billion (thank goodness for the Afghanistan War) of last year’s $150 billion in revenue. This year, GM expects to earn $3.17 a share on $153 billion in revenue, and in 2013, the mavens of Auto Land suggest that GM will earn $4.15 on $159 billion in revenue. I think these guys have gotta stop putting that funny stuff in their brownie mix.
Many observers doubt that next year’s consumer will have the earning and buying power to make those numbers touchable.
Now, be mindful that GM sells cars, and I have difficulty believing anything a car salesman tells me. I also have trouble accepting those numbers because GM is still 32 percent government-owned and still owes taxpayers tiskets, taskets and baskets of billions of dollars. And GM has been terribly slow paying us back. So when someone speaks glowingly about GM, suggesting it’s a good stock to own, I get this Morse code thumping in my frontal lobe, tapping out, “Balderdash, poppycock, applesauce, fish feathers and piffle.”
I wish GM enormous success, but its provenance suggests that purchasing those shares could be a costly blunder. GM is still tethered by government politics and still consults with the Obama administration regarding employment decisions, salary limitations and production policies.
Peugeot also has 210,000 employees but barely sells enough cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and stuff to book $72 billion in revenue. Unbelievably, GM employees are twice as productive as their brethren at PUEGF. Peugeot is on track to lose $1.28 billion this year. So considering the foundering EU economy, PEUGF expects revenue to fall by 22 percent in 2013, and that looks like a master disaster.
The leftist French government and its union bedfellows won’t allow PEUGF to close any of its hugely high-cost assembly lines, which make most GM plants look like a textbook model of efficiency. PEUGF’s recent generous and voluntary retirement packages (annual income guarantees of $44,000 to $58,000) are criticized by French unions as “not good enough,” so union leaders are organizing a strike. PEUGF is a sick puppy, stuck in a moribund European economy, in which governments and unions won’t allow industries to modernize and adapt to the modern world.
By the way, did you know that this year, GM, using U.S. taxpayer dollars, invested $450 million in PEUGF, which is now nearly worthless? Don’t compound that mistake. Hold on to your cash for a while; it will give you time to think.
Address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.