The U.S. says it plans to sell the last of its ownership stake in automaker General Motors by the end of the year.
The government owned 61 percent of the world's second biggest auto manufacturer five years ago. The U.S. took control of GM after handing it a nearly $50 billion bailout to keep it from collapsing at the height of the steep American economic downturn in 2008.
But the government has gradually been selling portions of the 912 million shares it owned, leaving its stake at less than 2 percent. The government has so far recovered more than $38 billion of its bailout. At GM's current stock price of about $38 a share, the government would recoup more than another $1 billion with the sale of its last 31 million shares.
In the final accounting, the government investment in GM could cost taxpayers about $10 billion.
But a Treasury official, Tim Bowler, said Thursday that if the government had not bailed out GM and another automaker, Chrysler, "the cost to the country would have been substantial," with lost jobs and lower economic growth.
Overall, the government says it has come out slightly ahead with its investments in failing businesses during the economic downturn that was the country's worst in seven decades. The U.S. handed out more than $421 billion in bailouts and so far has recovered more than $431 billion.