Ontario Plans to Sell General Motors Stake Within Year

Ontario plans to sell its remaining shares of General Motors Co. in the next year as part of a review of its state-owned assets.

“Some assets may no longer serve a public good,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said in the text of a speech today in Toronto. “One good example is our shares in GM.” Sousa said the government will evaluate market conditions and sell the shares when appropriate over the next year or so.

The province will also assess its liquor monopoly, known as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Other assets to be reviewed include utilities Hydro One Inc. and Ontario Power Generation Inc., Sousa said. The province will set up a panel to advise on its state-owned assets, to be led by Toronto-Dominion Bank Chief Executive Officer Ed Clark.

The Canadian and Ontario governments in September agreed to sell 30 million GM shares worth about $1.1 billion to Bank of America Corp. and Royal Bank of Canada in a block trade, reducing their stake by 21 percent to 110 million shares. The two governments are the second-largest shareholder in the Detroit-based automaker.

The proceeds from the sales of assets will be set aside for reinvestments in infrastructure projects and won’t be used towards provincial budget deficits, Sousa told reporters after his speech. The province is also looking at opportunities to sell office space it owns in Toronto, including the OPG building, and will issue a request for proposals for the LCBO head office -- already flagged for potential sale -- early in the summer.

Public, Private

The council, which will also include former provincial finance minister Janet Ecker and David Denison, the former chief executive officer of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, will study the best use of the province’s more complex assets such as the LCBO, Sousa said.

“To maximize the value of these assets to the province, they will look at measures such as efficient governance, growth strategies, corporate reorganization, mergers, acquisitions, and public-private partnerships,” Sousa said. “The council will give preference to continued government ownership of all core strategic assets.”

There may be opportunities for the private sector to own or run “components” of the LCBO, for example, Sousa said.

Sousa said he has yet to determine a date for the provincial budget announcement.

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