After yesterday agreeing a deal with Vauxhall's key union here in the UK, Magna International has altered its offer to Spanish unions at the local Opel unit [near Zaragoza] and will discuss the changes with unions and a government representative on Wednesday (14 October), a Spanish industry ministry spokesman said late last night.

The talks on Wednesday may be done as a conference call as neither Spain's industry minister Miguel Sebastian nor Magna's co-chief executive Siegfried Wolf will likely be able to attend in person due to scheduling problems, the spokesman told Dow Jones Newswires. The changes to Magna's offer are in the area of the industrial plan for Opel, he added.

A meeting on Opel between Wolf, Sebastian and union officials earlier on Tuesday ended without an accord.

Magna before the meeting had offered to cut fewer jobs at Opel's Figueruelas Corsa/Meriva plant, but the unions rejected the offer as they continued to disapprove of Magna's industrial plan for the automaker, a union spokeswoman told the news agency.

Opel currently employs about 7,000 workers at Figueruelas but over 1,600 posts would have been axed under Magna's original restructuring plan, according to Spanish media reports.

Overnight media reports suggested the Vauxhall deal had moved Magna and GM closer to signing a preliminary deal to sell a 55% stake in Opel to a consortium including Russia's Sberbank.

"It's quite possible to see documents signed this week," GM CEO Fritz Henderson yesterday told reporters in Shanghai.

But Sberbank CEO German Gref told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that he did not know when Magna would actually sign the deal - described last week by a Vauxhall executive as a "memorandum of understanding" rather than the final, definitive deal expected some time in November.

"When we start to sign, we will announce it," Gref told Reuters.

Magna and the Russian bank plan to inject EUR500m (US$739m) into Opel, aiming to use it to make an aggressive push into the Russian market, and plan to cut about 11,000 European jobs.

But concerns raised by governments of countries outside Germany with Opel/Vauxhall plants, and affected unions, together with European Commission scrutiny of Germany's loan guarantee offer, have delayed the signing.

Though the Vauxhall unions have agreed a deal, the British government has not. Business secretary [minister]Peter Mandelson told BBC TV the deal was much better than had been originally put forward but added "we still have some way to go in agreeing the financing of this and that's what talks will be continuing about this week".

However he added he expected an agreement would be reached.

"I need to be convinced that the terms and conditions for the financing will be of the sort and standard that the government expects when we put taxpayers' money into a company like this," he said.

"It's rather complicated but I think we will be able to tie up these financial ends but in the meantime we have a much better outcome for Vauxhall."