General Motors CEO Dan Akerson identified cuts in Europe, Canada and streamlined global product development as key priorities to boost the automaker's lackluster stock price.
Akerson also said that when the Treasury Department decides to reduce its 32% stake, he would like to explore "various options or alternatives" -- which, analysts said, could involve stock buybacks. In an interview with CNBC, Akerson said he would like the government to spell out a plan for its stake.
"A shareholder of this magnitude ... they have to articulate a sales strategy such that it doesn't impact the stock disproportionately," Akerson said.
Europe, where GM has lost money for 12 straight years, and lost $256 million in the first quarter, casts a long shadow.
"We have to fix Europe or at least get it where it isn't draining the corporate coffers," Akerson said.
The automaker, he said, is conducting constructive discussions with unions in Germany, Poland and the U.K. Analysts say they expect the company to close one or two plants, including its Opel factory in Bochum, Germany.
European union contracts restrict automakers' ability to close plants. No auto plant in west Germany has closed since World War II.
"They've got a lot of resiliency in the U.S., but that's really the main place they're generating money," said Robert Schulz, managing director for corporate and government ratings for Standard & Poor's. "Our expectations are very low for Europe. It's not hard to imagine losses next year."
In Canada, where union deals expire this year, GM is eyeing cost cuts, too, because Akerson said it is "the most expensive place to build a car in the world right now." GM expects to win concessions from the Canadian Auto Workers union.
While a weak Canadian dollar and national health insurance once gave the CAW a cost advantage, the U.S. and Canadian dollars are roughly equal and that advantage is gone.
The CAW estimates that GM's total labor costs for wages and benefits is about $60 per hour in Canada compared with about $56 per hour in the U.S.
"There is no question, on a par value, that the dollar creates some challenges for us relative to the so-called competitiveness," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. "But we are in the ballpark."
Several frustrated stockholders aired their grievances during the public question-and-answer period at GM's annual meeting.
"I've got to account to my shareholders: my wife and my son," said Bill Preston, who traveled from southern California to attend the meeting. "We've taken a bath, and it's been very painful."
Shareholders re-elected the company's 12 directors and elected two new directors, former ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva and former Cummins CEO Theodore Solso, all with at least 93.7% of the vote, according to preliminary results.
More than 97% of shareholders gave their support to the company's executive compensation plan, which is capped by the government. The "say-on-pay" vote is nonbinding.
GM said this month it will shift salary pension obligations to Prudential Company of America in a deal that will cost GM about $4 billion. Through the deal, GM is offering 42,000 salaried retirees the choice of taking their pensions in lump sums instead of receiving monthly payments.
Akerson said GM would consider making the same offer to hourly retirees, who make up most of the company's $130 billion in pension obligations.
"I'm not saying we're going to do it, but it's certainly something we would consider if the opportunity arose," Akerson said.
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