US government will sell off final GM stock by year's end

The federal government plans to shed the last of its investment in General Motors by the end of the year, five years after it stepped in to keep the automaker afloat. 

The Treasury Department said Thursday that it had completed the sale of 70.2 million shares of GM common stock under its plan to sell off what was once a 61 percent taxpayer stake in the firm. 

It plans to sell the final remaining 31.1 million shares by year's end as long as market conditions remain favorable and the stock price holds. 

As part of the agreement to save the auto powerhouse, the government received 912 million shares and GM got a $49.5 billion bailout during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. 

So far, Treasury has recovered $38.4 billion of that amount and, is expected to come up short in recouping the entire taxpayer investment. 

The next stock sell-off could net the Treasury only about another $1 billion or so more, leaving it about $10 billion short, according to estimates. 

The federal government never expected to get all of its money back. 

"Treasury’s investment in the American auto industry was part of President Obama’s broader response to the financial crisis, and it helped save more than 1 million jobs,” said Tim Bowler, Treasury deputy assistant secretary in a statement. 

“Had we not acted to support the automotive industry, the cost to the country would have been substantial — in terms of lost jobs, lost tax revenue, reduced economic production, and other consequences. Our actions have enabled the industry to rebound."

Treasury has been slowly selling off its investment since the initial public offering in November 2010.