Chrysler Talks Stall as Banks Balk at Trading Loans for Equity

Bloomberg – Chrysler LLC, needing lender concessions by March 31, isn’t negotiating with its banks because it can’t persuade them to discuss trading loans for uncertain equity, people familiar with the companies’ actions say.

Chrysler must reduce its debt by $5 billion by getting creditors such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. to trade debt for an ownership stake or by changing loan terms in order to be viable, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker said on Feb. 17 in a plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury.

Banks have little incentive to trade their loans, and the only other creditors Chrysler lists that could take more equity for debt are the U.S. government and the United Auto Workers union, which already has agreed in principle to reduce its obligation by 50 percent.

“It’s going to be a tough sell to get the banks to give up their position for worthless equity,” said Don Workman, a bankruptcy attorney at Baker & Hostetler LLP in Washington. “The best Chrysler can hope is that the government is going to force them to do it.”

The banks, which include Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, would be first to be repaid in the case of a bankruptcy. By taking equity in exchange for debt, the banks would lose that standing they now have. The caveat is that each of the banks has taken U.S. government aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program and may be subject to Treasury’s influence, Workman said.

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