Flemish government authorities say they are standing by to offer loan guarantees to potential investors for Opel’s Antwerp plant.

Opel appeared to have doomed the plant by announcing this week it had ceased its search for industrial investors, but a powerful lobby of Flemish government and union officials is mounting a rearguard action to save the 1,200 jobs at the plant.

Both groups have come together following GM division Opel’s decision to suspend its industrial search and subsequent suggestions a Chinese investor has approached unions in Belgium directly.

“The Flanders government could always give guarantees about loans, that is possible,” Flanders minister president Kris Peeters told just-auto from Belgium. “The principle meaning of the Flanders government to provide guarantees is no problem at all.”

Sources close to the situation in Belgium told just-auto the potential Chinese investor – widespread speculation suggests it could be Geely – had contacted unions in Belgium to discuss the situation.

However, it is believed that, though the Chinese are keen, no in-depth business plan has yet been presented although the emergence of the Flemish government offer might accelerate that process.

The Flemish authorities were keen to stress their offer was a loan guarantee and did not involve straight cash because European Union regulations prohibited such a deal. There was also a possibility of a sale and lease-back of the site, according to the government.

Peeters added a so-called “reconversion group” for the Opel plant, comprising politicans and financial experts,  had meetings again yesterday (5 October) in a bid to kick-start a new search for investors.

Noting GM had a “big responsibility” Peeters added: “It is a long road that has already started one and a half years ago.

“This is very sad and very disappointing for the employees of Antwerp. We have to give the Chinese their privacy but now the unions will have their talks.”

No specific timetable has yet been established for negotiations between the unions and the Chinese, although Peeters noted both sides would meet “as soon as possible.”

GM declined to add to its statement earlier this week.