As the clock ticks down to the final closure of Opel's Astra-producing plant in Antwerp, Belgium, parent General Motors is starting to try and recoup what some have estimated as US$532m in redundancy payments to its 2,500 workers.

Highly emotive television pictures and acres of Belgian newsprint showed the final ever Astra rolling of the assembly line this week in Antwerp, but GM has had to put its hand deep into its pockets to compensate those 2,500 staff.

And despite desperate efforts by the European Works Council and the European Metalworkers Federation, Opel's unions have been unable to persuade GM to keep Astra production going at the plant as the US manufacturer looks to implement a wide-spread cost-cutting exercise.

Hopes were raised by a potential buyer - or was that buyers? - with one investor group speaking to just-auto this week - although remaining coy about revealing its identity - making clear its serious intention to assume control of the site.

"We had a clear business model and a clear business plan for taking over this factory," its spokesmen for the investor group told just-auto. "We need assembly facilities for sure and we are actively looking for them."

Well, Opel has ready-made assembly facilities at Antwerp but firmly rebuffed attempts - Chinese or otherwise - to dispose of them to the bidders that came forward.

"We did not find an automotive investor," was GM's clipped response. "There was not a viable business plan with the Chinese so that is why discussions stopped."

The American owner is now looking to realise some of its enormous outlay on redundancy severance - including "guidance" payments for six months for the latest tranche of 1,300 lay-offs.

This has already seen Antwerp's press and paint shop put up for auction - although no minimum price has been disclosed - while talks are continuing with the Antwerp Port Authority with a view to disposing of the land and buildings.

Sources in Belgium have indicated to just-auto that: "The GM IPO document mentions US$532m as the cost of the closure of the Antwerp plant - that is because of the high redundancy payments. GM never mentioned a price for the plant."

The same source also said a Belgian real estate broker values the Antwerp site at between EUR81m and EUR95m for the grounds.

But the one party in all this to-ing and fro-ing that is appearing to remain silent this week is the Flemish government in whose territory Antwerp lies.

Calls to the government by just-auto elicited an extremely cautious response to the situation, which it appears now to have accepted.

The Belgian source also indicates the government made two proposals - one "to offer Opel a sale-and-lease back option for around EUR200m - the second a EUR200-EUR300m bank guarantee to anyone willing to buy the plant - from Opel of course - while guaranteeing to keep the plant operational."

Calls to Opel and the Flemish government today (17 December) could not verify if those guarantees and financial options were available, but it begs the question - if true - if those possibilities were explored and if so to what extent.