General Motors Co. is close to replacing its chief financial officer after finding a candidate to take his job, its CEO said in a Web chat with reporters on Tuesday.
The candidate was not identified during the chat with GM's Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. but it was the first time the automaker has publicly acknowledged that the board plans to replace current CFO Ray Young. An announcement is likely in two to three weeks.
Young is the second top executive to be replaced by Whitacre and the new government-appointed board, which took over control of the troubled automaker as it emerged from bankruptcy protection in July. Fritz Henderson, the former CEO, left last week.
The board reportedly decided to remove Young back in September, not long after he stated publicly that GM would not report its financial results because it is not a publicly traded company.
GM later reversed itself and in November reported a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss.
Also, Steven Rattner, former head of the government's autos task force, wrote on Fortune magazine's Web site in October that GM had "perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company."
Henderson resigned abruptly on Dec. 1, and Whitacre is serving as interim CEO until a replacement is found. No questions about why Henderson left the company were presented to Whitacre during the 38-minute Web chat. GM controlled which questions were asked.
Whitacre also made a host of promotions last week, including former engineering head Mark Reuss as North America president and rejoining marketing and sales under sales chief Susan Docherty.
From GM's Detroit headquarters, Whitacre implied that newly appointed executives have little time to make changes.
"Not long. :-)," Whitacre wrote when asked how long the new appointees have to show results before being replaced.
He also wrote that no new job cuts are planned at the automaker.
He said he is not satisfied with GM's current market share even considering the conditions of the depressed U.S. auto market. GM's market share is around 20 percent.
Whitacre wrote that he has specific sales and market share forecasts but he did not reveal them.
Also during the chat, Whitacre said GM is considering repaying its government loans in one lump sum rather than in quarterly installments. The company must repay the U.S. government $6.7 billion. The government hopes to be repaid at least part of the remaining $45.3 billion in aid it has given to GM when the company sells stock to the public sometime next year.
GM reported last month that it had a $42.6 billion cash balance at the end of September
Also Tuesday, Whitacre wrote that he had a productive meeting Monday with Klaus Franz, Opel's chief employee representative, at GM's headquarters. GM nearly sold off Opel, its European car business, but has decided to keep the brand. Still, Opel and its sister brand Vauxhall must undergo more revamping to have a shot at profitability, including layoffs at unionized factories and wage and benefit concessions.
"Lots of areas of agreement," Whitacre wrote. "Very few areas of disagreement. I think the future in Europe looks great."
He also said the company is talking with a couple of bidders for another brand that was expected to be sold _ Sweden's Saab. GM will decide on them by the end of the month.
GM had a deal to sell the money-losing Saab to specialty car maker Koenigsegg AB. But it fell through and two other bidders have emerged.
(This version CORRECTS RECASTS and EDITS throughout. corrects payment schedule in 5th graf to quarterly sted monthly. ADDS detail and background. Moving on general news and financial services.)