Blog: Dave LeggettOpel jockeying

Dave Leggett | 14 July 2009

I'm not surprised to hear RHJ going public this week about being at an 'advanced' stage in talks with GM to acquire Opel/Vauxhall. It has nothing to lose and everything to gain by talking up its position as we enter the final stages of a competition that had seemed more or less sewn up just a short time ago.

If a revised offer is coming from RHJ this week, that won't bother GM one bit. If nothing else, it applies a bit more pressure on Magna.

Could the RHJ offer be attractive to GM in its own right?

Maybe that consideration is being taken more seriously the longer this thing drags on. If the financial terms look good, then people at GM will surely weigh up where it differs from the Magna bid. It doesn't come with some of the potential problems – like access to technology and territorial sales issues (especially Russia) – that Magna does. RHJ could be a way for GM to keep more control of things in Europe – RHJ a compliant financial backer much more in the background than Magna would be.

But what about the underlying German politics? Magna's bid still has plenty of support. It's unclear whether RHJ's bid would mean more jobs lost than Magna's (though it is suggesting that it won't close any plants in the UK or Germany). That uncertainty in itself will perhaps bolster the coalition behind Magna in Germany.

I wonder what Sergio Marchionne makes of it all? Is Fiat really out of it? Fiat is axing some capacity in Italy which perhaps will reassure some that the axe wouldn't all fall on Opel under Marchionne's plans. And maybe some in Germany will conclude that Marchionne knows how to run a car company and isn't such a bad bet after all. Fiat could perhaps submit a revised offer, though it would be hard pressed to come up with cash on the table.

I still reckon Magna is more likely than anything else, but the longer the process rumbles on without conclusion, the more you cannot rule out another bid. Done and dusted it ain't.

GERMANY/BELGIUM: RHJ expects to table new Opel offer


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