General Motors expects to sign a deal on Thursday to sell 55% of its Opel-Vauxhall operation to Magna International and Russian partner Sberbank, according to German news agency reports.

The reports confirmed comments made by GM CEO Fritz Henderson during a visit to Shanghai on Tuesday where he told reporters that it was possible a deal could come this week.

They quoted sources close to the month-long negotiations. GM agreed on 10 September to sell a majority 55% stake in Opel to a Magna-led consortium. Under the agreement, GM would retain a 35% stake in the carmaker. Employees would receive a 10% stake in return for EUR1.2bn in concessions.

The protracted negotiations have stumbled over potential job losses; Opel's new owner wants to make up to 11,000 redundant; Opel and Vauxhall employ about 55,000 workers in Germany, Spain, Belgium and the UK.

German labour unions in particular have demanded a veto on factory closures and that prompted labour and government concern in the UK and Spain that EUR4.5bn (US$6.7bn) in aid pledged by the German government to restructure Opel favored the carmaker's German factories.

Magna and Sberbank, Russia's biggest commercial bank, have promised to inject EUR500m into Opel, which they want to use to make an aggressive push into the Russian market.

They have committed to keeping German plants running, but Opel's Antwerp plant in Belgium and Vauxhall's van plant in Luton (with work committed only out to 2013) - are seen as most at risk.

Opel labor leader Klaus Franz said on Monday that he expected GM to sign the contract this week. "We are on the home stretch but there a few more points to clear up," Franz said.

Also on Monday, the British government said progress was being made in negotiations over the future of the Vauxhall plants in Britain.

"Some progress is being made in talks between key parties but there are still issues to be resolved," said a Department of Business, Innovation & Skills spokeswoman.

"We, like everybody else, would like a speedy resolution but we want to get the terms right," she added.

Vauxhall employs around 5,500 people in Britain, the majority at the Luton and Ellesmere Port (Astra) plants.