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(LEAD) GM signs conditional deal with KDB to maintain S. Korean unit

All Headlines 19:26 April 26, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline and lead; ADDS details throughout)

SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- General Motors Co. signed a conditional agreement with the Seoul government to help resolve the liquidity problems facing its South Korean unit, corporate sources said Thursday.

In the deal to be finalized early next month, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) agreed to inject a combined 7.7 trillion won (US$7.15 billion) -- 6.9 trillion won from GM and 810 billion won from the KDB -- into the cash strapped carmaker.

In exchange for a fresh loan from the KDB, whose 17 percent stake in GM Korea Co. makes it the carmaker's second-biggest shareholder, the U.S. auto giant vowed to allocate two new vehicles to its Korean plants and maintain its Korean operations for more than 10 years. It agreed to give the Korean policy lender veto power in key management decisions, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Yonhap News Agency.

A compact SUV and a crossover utility vehicle are expected to be allocated to GM's three Korean plants at the end of 2019 and in 2022, respectively. The U.S. carmaker said this will give the company a production capacity of 500,000 units a year in the plants starting in 2022, although production volumes will stay at 370,000-440,000 units for the three years through 2021.

In this photo taken April 26, 2018, GM President Dan Ammann (L) speaks in a meeting with South Korean ruling party members about past achievements and the urgent need to fix cash problems at GM Korea. (Yonhap)

The deal comes hours after GM President Dan Ammann said in a meeting with South Korea's ruling party lawmakers that the detroit-based carmaker was in the final stages of resolving the credit crunch facing its local unit.

"Over the last few months -- in particular over the last few weeks -- a lot of very good progress has been made. We stand here today very close to a resolution on most of these particular issues," Ammann said, referring to a "cash crisis" in the company.

Speaking from the perspective of GM Korea's stakeholders -- GM, GM Korea's labor union and the KDB -- he said, "From the beginning, we have shared a common objective, and that common objective is to make GM Korea a successful, thriving, growing and profitable company."

He said that, because of some issues at GM Korea, a number of very difficult steps have to be taken in order to reach that objective, but he did not elaborate further.

The related parties will be able to "disclose the final list of items over the next few hours and days," he said.

On Monday, the 12,000-member GM Korea union reached a tentative agreement on the self-help plan, which includes shutting down a plant in Korea, a wage freeze and forgoing bonuses. With the preliminary deal, GM Korea could avoid being placed under court-led bankruptcy protection.

In a vote held from Wednesday to Thursday, the union accepted the self-rescue plans for GM Korea. From 2014-2017, the carmaker posted 3.134 trillion won in accumulated net losses due to a lack of new models and lower demand.

In February, GM unveiled its restructuring plan for its Korean operations. The Detroit carmaker said it will shut one of its four Korean plants by May, while asking GM Korea workers to make some wage concessions and the KDB to provide financial support to turn the Korean unit around.

Back then, GM offered to share an investment of $2.8 billion between its Korean unit and the KDB in the next 10 years through 2027.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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