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September 22, 2009

OPEL DEAL [updated 18:15]: EC approval not needed; 1,800 Vauxhall jobs going?

The German government does not need separate approval from the European Commission to grant state aid to Adam Opel because this would be part of a temporary framework agreement to support companies during the economic crisis, a government document seen by Dow Jones Newswires said. Separately, The Times reported earlier today that Magna would axe 1,400 Vauxhall jobs at the two plants here and the Daily Telegraph, citing "sources", said 1,830.

The German government does not need separate approval from the European Commission to grant state aid to Adam Opel because this would be part of a temporary framework agreement to support companies during the economic crisis, a government document seen by Dow Jones Newswires said. Separately, The Times reported earlier today that Magna would axe 1,400 Vauxhall jobs at the two plants here and The Daily Telegraph , citing “sources”, said 1,830.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of key car workers union UNITE , told Sky News the jobs cuts were a “political stitch up”.

Dow Jones said Germany planned to reach a basic agreement with the European Union executive. “As in all important cases under the temporary framework, the possible financing will be discussed intensively with the commission,” the document, dated 21 September, said.

Following the the successful Magna International-led consortium’s bid a deal is expected to close by the end of November with a total investment of EUR5bn, including EUR4.5bn in financial guarantees from Germany until 2015. Magna and Russian partner Sberbank are providing EUR500m in equity, including EUR50m through a convertible bond.

Citing the document, Dow Jones said Magna and Sberbank plan to cut 10,900 jobs in Europe, with Germany accounting for 4,100 jobs. Opel’s Belgium plant in Antwerp may be closed.

Magna co-chief executive Siegfried Wolf had previously said on 14 September that 10,500 jobs would be cut in Europe, including 4,000 in Germany and he also indicated then that Antwerp’s future was unclear. Some Magna sources have since been quoted as saying the original job cut count did not include administrative staff who would be axed from Opel’s Russelsheim HQ near Frankfurt.

“The production facilities are mainly to be kept [apart from Antwerp],” the document reportedly said. Opel would also “significantly lower” royalty payments for using GM technology.

Citing a leaked plan to be discussed by Opel this week, The Times said about 1,400 British jobs would be lost at the two Vauxhall plants in Ellesmere Port and Luton.

No details were available. Opel insiders told the paper the Luton factory, which produces vans in a joint venture with Renault , would be worst hit. The Ellesmere Port plant is just starting output of the redesigned Astra.

The Times said the plan, leaked to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, would fuel suspicion that Germany, though by not immune from cuts, had put itself in a favourable position – the Vauxhall cuts represent a 30% loss in jobs, from 4,475 staff to 3,102 workers, while Opel is losing barely 17% of workers in Germany.

Citing a separate document it saw last June, Dow Jones Newswires said the current licence fees of 5% would be lowered temporarily to 3.25% until the end of 2012.

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