Rarely has an article reporting quarterly financial numbers for a major American automaker included so many unintended opportunities for hilarity as Monday's Wall Street Journal detailing third quarter earnings for General Motors.
Let's start with the lead sentence:
General Motors Co. reported a $1.15 billion loss for a shortened third quarter, providing the first evidence of the auto maker's improvement since emerging from bankruptcy protection.
GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced that "today's results provide evidence of a solid foundation we're building for the new GM."
Only in today's Detroit: A $1.15 billion loss can be considered an not only an "improvement" but a "solid foundation."
But it gets much better:
The results also don't comply with generally accepted accounting principles and exclude key items such as valuation changes for its pension and health-care accounts.
So the "improvement" and the "solid foundation" that led to $1.15 billion loss can be partially accredited to accounting shenanigans. That is encouraging!
But here's the capper: Henderson also announced that next month GM would start paying back its government loans, beginning with a $1.2 billion installment in December. If you are confused as to how a company that just lost at least a billion dollars is in a financial position to start paying down its debt in billion-dollar chunks, well, here's the answer.
In what could be a controversial move, the company plans to use other money it received from the U.S. government to pay back the borrowing.
Hope that clears everything up.