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GMAC pleads with investors to help it survive

With the deadline for raising enough capital to become a bank holding company by year's end fast approaching, GMAC Financial Services today issued a plea for help to investors.

With the deadline for raising enough capital to become a bank holding company by year's end fast approaching, GMAC Financial Services today issued a plea for help to investors.

Reaching bank-holding-company status is considered imperative to GMAC's survival and, consequently, its ability to continue providing financing to car dealers and a variety of consumers.

"It's an important day today in terms of informing the investor base just how serious this is," said Toni Simonetti, a spokeswoman for Michigan-based GMAC, the primary financing source for General Motors Corp. dealerships.

As a bank holding company, GMAC could be eligible for part of the $700 billion in federal bailout funds available to financial-services companies.

"They need to rapidly address their problems," said Sean Egan, managing director and founder of Egan-Jones Ratings Co., of Haverford, "or they will be faced with bankruptcy."

GMAC announced today that it was extending by three days, until Friday, its "early-tender" deadline for participation in a debt exchange - the third extension since the capital-raising effort was launched Nov. 20. The face value of the debt eligible for exchange - notes issued by GMAC and its Residential Capital L.L.C. mortgage unit (known as ResCap) - is $38 billion.

The Federal Reserve has told GMAC it must have $30 billion in regulatory capital by Dec. 31 to qualify as a bank holding company.

"If the bond exchange is not successful . . . we can't pursue" that status change, Simonetti said.

The consequences of that scenario, GMAC cautioned bondholders today, would mean "a near-term material adverse effect on GMAC's business, results of operations and financial position."

Less than 25 percent - or a total of $8 billion - of GMAC's and ResCap's $38 billion debt eligible for the exchange offer has been tendered. About 75 percent participation is needed to get GMAC closer to the $30 billion goal.

"The hope is . . . that the investor community now has a better basis to make a decision on whether to participate," Simonetti said.

That GMAC's exchange offer has not been a resounding success so far does not come as a surprise to Egan.

"There's a lot of bad will in the investment community toward GM and GMAC," he said.

In a report issued today, analysts Richard Hofmann and Adam Steer from CreditSights said they "envision political winds" pushing for a waiver of some of the requirements for bank-holding-company status. An injection of federal funds to help GMAC reach the capital requirements also is not out of the question, they said.

"After all, GMAC provides credit directly to consumers and also supports the core of American manufacturing, both areas the government has actively been looking to shore up amid the ongoing recession," Hofmann and Steer wrote.

GMAC's recent decision to tighten financing standards for car dealers and buyers has been criticized by both groups. Dealers that have opted to shut down have cited GMAC's new terms as part of the reason.

Joseph Magarity closed Magarity Ford in Chestnut Hill at the end of last month. He hopes to invest the proceeds of a pending sale on that property into his Chevrolet dealership in Flourtown. Eager for customers with access to financing, Magarity said he was also hoping for GMAC to reach bank-holding-company status.

"We need to have a financing arm to operate successfully," Magarity said today.

Meanwhile, a consortium of 1,200 credit unions in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois today pledged $10 billion in loans to car buyers and said it was partnering with GM to offer special discounts to boost flagging car sales.