Lear Corp. aid request too late for Tampa plant
Michigan automotive parts supplier Lear Corp., which is in the process of shutting down its electronics components plant in Tampa (chronicled here in a recent column in the St. Petersburg Times and captured in the photo by Selim Merchant here of some of the hundreds of area workers soon to lose their jobs), has joined the ranks of the struggling auto industry to lobby for federal assistance. According to Automotive News, Lear CEO Bob Rossiter wrote this week to President George Bush, encouraging him to provide federal aid to Detroit's Big 3 automakers during their cash crisis.
On Tuesday, Rossiter bought another 100,000 common shares of Lear shares as a show of faith in the company and industry. That is on top of the 225,000 shares purchased last week at $1.78 per share. Lear shares closed Tuesday at $1.41. "I'm betting on my own company," a Wall Street Journal story quotes him saying.
“I am confident we will get through the present tough conditions, and emerge as a very strong global competitor,” he said in a letter to employees. As for the Tampa workers at Lear's plant at 5100 W Waters Ave., they are watching the bulk of their assembly line work (even the equipment) get shipped to a new Lear plant in Apodaca, Mexico.
Will Lear survive? Some are not sure. Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache on Monday downgraded shares of General Motors Corp. to sell from hold, saying the automaker was on the path to bankruptcy before the end of the year unless the U.S. government agrees to a bailout. Also facing "major risks" are parts suppliers Lear Corp.
The good news for the U.S. auto industry? The Wall Street Journal's lead, front page headline this morning: "Democrats Plot Detroit Rescue."
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist