Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Opel decision only before Frankfurt auto show

Canada's auto-part maker Magna may have to wait yet another month to lay its hands on Opel.

Reports here say General Motors will not decide the fate of the loss-making Opel division until the start of the Frankfurt Auto Show next month. The world's premier auto show begins Sep 17.

Opel is likely to unveil two new models - a new version of Opel Astra with low-emission engine and a new Opel Ampera - at the auto show. The latter will be an electric car on the lines of the Chevrolet Volt.

Canada's Magna and the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation (called Sberbank) have jointly submitted a $775-mmilon bid for a 55 percent stake in Opel. Brussels-based financial investor RHJ International is the rival bidder.

German-based Opel was put under a trust when GM filed for bankruptcy protection in June and later got $50 billion from US and Canadian government to emerge from bankruptcy last month. GM, which now has a 35 per cent stake in Opel, wants to sell this division as part of its restructuring.

But the new board of directors last week didn't name Magna and the Russian bank as the new buyers as they have reservations about GM's intellectual property falling into Russian hands.

Reports in the local media Tuesday quoted Fred Irwin, chairman of the German government-backed trust that owns 65 per cent of Opel, as saying that GM is still working on a "commercially viable solution" for Opel. He said GM will make an announcement to sell Opel by the start of the Frankfurt auto show. He said the auto show is 'incredibly important' for Opel as it will present its new models.

GM vice-president John Smith also met officials on the German task force Tuesday, telling them the auto giant was working on its differences with the bidders on GM patents, financial liabilities, and keeping jobs.

He is likely to meet representatives from Magna Wednesday. Based at Aurora near Toronto, Magna enjoys the backing of the German government as it has promised to keep most European jobs.
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