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GM negotiator meets with German officials

GM negotiator meets with German officials

General Motors Co.'s top negotiator was meeting Tuesday with a task force of German federal and state officials as rumors swirled about the future of the automaker's European Opel unit.
John Smith was meeting with the German government's "Opel task force" at the Economy Ministry as the two sides grappled with differences over which of two suitors' offers was better.
The German government favors an offer from Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian state-owned bank Sberbank over an offer from Brussels-based investor RHJ International SA, because less jobs are at risk under Magna's offer.
Opel workers also largely backed Magna's plan and voiced intentions to pool funds to buy a stake in an independent company.
However, GM's new board last Friday balked at picking a bidder because it reportedly has fears about GM's global small and midsize car technologies being used by Russian automaker OAO GAZ to update its vehicles and compete with Chevrolet. GAZ has ties to Magna and Sberbank and is likely to benefit from the deal.
Meanwhile, media reports Tuesday widely contradicted one another, quoting unidentified people close to the situation on both sides, saying both that GM was interested in finding a way to keep Opel for itself and also that GM didn't have an interest in keeping Opel.
GM is still trying to work on the Magna or RHJ deals but would consider keeping Opel if they fall through, a person briefed on the talks told the AP. GM would rather sell controlling interest in the money-losing operation as long as it can protect Opel's patents and other intellectual property from being used by a competitor, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
Under an arrangement formed earlier this year to keep Opel out of GM's filing for bankruptcy protection, 65 percent of the carmaker has since the beginning of June been formally under the care of a trustee, with GM holding the remaining 35 percent.
Fred Irwin, head of the trusteeship, told Deutschlandradio Kultur on Tuesday that GM still wanted to sell Opel.
German Foreign Minister and chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he wasn't aware of a new GM plan to keep Opel and that he continued to hope for a Magna deal.
"I can only hope that during the course of the day at least some of the open questions can get cleared up ... in order to end the uncertainty for Opel workers."
In other developments, workers at Opel retracted their offer to sacrifice vacation pay to help the struggling automaker in protest at GM's indecision over the company's fate.
Franco Biagiotti, the workers' council chief at Opel's Bochum plant told the AP that union members were upset over GM's hesitation as well as the reports that it may want to keep the company to itself.
Biagiotti said workers at Opel's Ruesselsheim, Kaiserslautern and Eisenach plants had taken back the offer to give up vacation pay _ which could have saved GM millions of dollars.
The Bochum plant was not involved in the offer from the outset, Biagiotti said.
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AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit.
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On the Net:
http://www.opel.com
http://www.gm.com


Updated : 2021-02-27 12:07 GMT+08:00