Germany: GM Could Decide On Opel By September

Decision on what GM does with its European unit would take at least a week and a half, as GM's board is due to meet on Sept. 8 and 9, a German government spokesman said.

FRANKFURT (AP) -- Any decision on the fate of General Motors Co.'s European unit Adam Opel GmbH is still probably weeks off, a German government spokesman said Friday.

A decision on what GM does with the unit, which includes its British sister brand Vauxhall, would take at least a week and a half, as GM's board is due to meet on Sept. 8 and 9, said Steffen Moritz, an Economic Ministry spokesman.

He added that the government could do little to influence Detroit's final decision.

The government has repeatedly voiced its favor for a bid from Canadian car parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, which has promised not to close any of the four Opel plants in Germany.

But GM's board, at its last meeting last week, declined to choose between Magna and another bid from Belgium-based investment company RHJ International SA, raising speculation that GM might not want to sell the unit at all, for fear that technologies could fall into competitors' hands and GM could lose valuable engineering resources.

Opel builds popular models like the Insignia sedan, which was voted the 2009 European Car of the Year by a panel of automotive experts, while Opel engineers are integral to GM's overall strategy.

Moritz said GM has finished contracts from both bidders and that GM would still hold a piece of the "New Opel." Which bidder takes over the majority though, has to be decided by GM, he said.

He said the federal government and the German states had provided all the information requested by GM. "Now, everything depends on General Motors' management board making a decision."

Currently, Opel is being kept afloat by a €1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) bridge loan provided by Germany. Under the terms of the deal being discussed, Magna and Sberbank would get a 55 percent stake in Opel. GM would hold onto a 35 percent stake and Opel workers would get 10 percent.

Just ahead of GM's bankruptcy earlier this year, Adam Opel GmbH was transferred to a government-backed trust that holds 65 percent of the automaker, with GM holding 35 percent.

The German government has offered an additional €4.5 billion ($6.5 billion) in credit to support the Magna bid.

Opel employs 25,000 people in Germany, about half of GM Europe's total work force, and German politicians have been keen to safeguard jobs ahead of national elections next month. The federal government's preference for Magna is shared by the four German state governments where Opel has plants.

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