DETROIT -- The U.S. government expects to sell the last of its stake in General Motors by the end of the year, bringing an end to a sad chapter in the company's storied history.
The Treasury Department, in a statement issued Thursday, said it still owns 31.1 million shares of the auto giant, less than 2 percent. It plans to sell the shares by Dec. 31, as long as the price holds up.
The government received 912 million shares in exchange for a $49.5 billion bailout during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. So far it has recovered $38.4 billion of the money, but selling the remaining shares at Wednesday's $37.69 closing price gets the government $1.17 billion, leaving taxpayers short by roughly $10 billion.
The government says the bailout was needed five years ago to save the American auto industry and more than a million jobs.
"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," Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Tim Bowler said in the statement.
Taxpayers' initially got a 61 percent stake in GM (GM) in exchange for the bailout. Treasury gradually has sold off its stake since a November 2010 initial public offering.
Shares of GM rose $1.22, or 3.2 percent, to $38.91 in premarket trading Thursday. That's close to GM's one-year high of $39.18.
GM said that work to transform the company continues. "We're making great progress in our efforts to make the most of this second chance by building outstanding cars and trucks, creating jobs and reinvesting in our country."