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September 7, 2009

OPEL WRAP: GM’s stance may have changed

German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck told US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner at the weekend that Germany still wants the Magna International consortium to buy Opel but noted General Motors' economic situation might have changed since it originally said it would seek a buyer for the European unit.

German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck told US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner at the weekend that Germany still wants the Magna International consortium to buy Opel but noted General Motors ‘ economic situation might have changed since it originally said it would seek a buyer for the European unit.

Weekend and Monday media speculation is suggesting GM’s board, meeting tomorrow, may well decide now to keep Opel with some form of restructure after insolvency and the best plants across Europe kept on the books.

Speaking at a G20 press conference, Steinbrueck said he thought the US government would leave the decision about Opel with GM’s board of directors and wouldn’t exercise “massive influence.”

“I have told him what the (German federal) government’s position is, that we are very much interested that the current vacuum will finally be filled,” he was quoted as saying by Dow Jones.

“The government still favours the industrial policy concept of Magna and therefore this partner.”

He added that Germany’s willingness to provide aid was “clearly linked to this partner”.

In what some saw as an indication of a shift of GM’s plan to sell Opel, Steinbrueck added “the decisions will clearly be made based on the very narrow economic interests of General Motors . It could be that the situation of General Motors over the past months differs from the state of discussions in March, April.”

He added that he could not say how the GM board would decide in the meeting that he believed would take place Tuesday.

Steinbrueck said he agreed with Geithner to stay in contact on the issue. The German government has said it expected a decision on Opel’s future this week.

The German federal government, as well as those German states with Opel production sites, want Magna to win the bid because they expect the car supplier to have a long-term interest in Opel. They have also said they would only provide this aid to Magna .

But GM reportedly is concerned about sharing intellectual property with Magna ‘s Russian partners.

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