General Motors' GM.UL European business said on Thursday it had agreed to continue detailed talks with both Magna and RHJ International on its German unit Opel.
GM has been considering three final offers for Opel submitted on Monday by Magna, RHJ and Chinese carmaker BAIC. It did not mention BAIC in Thursday's statement on further talks.
GM and German government officials failed to agree on a partner for Opel at talks held on Wednesday to discuss the offers.
We had a good and thoughtful discussion around the key operating metrics and key issues associated with the three final offers we received on Monday evening, John Smith, GM's chief negotiator for the sale of Opel, said in the statement.
We have agreed to continue detailed talks with both Magna and RHJ to secure Opel's future, he added.
Other people involved in the negotiations over Opel's future said Germany's representatives on a trust that could decide the local carmaker's fate do not share their government's preference for Canada's Magna to be its partner.
The endgame of the battle for control of Opel will play out in the Opel Trust, which has been responsible for Opel since GM entered bankruptcy in June, if the German government, which is being asked to provide the carmaker with loan guarantees, and 35-percent shareholder GM cannot agree on an investor. The Trust holds 65 percent of Opel shares.
Sources close to the negotiations said GM officials at the talks clearly supported a rival offer from Belgium-based financial investor RHJ and saw no basis for agreeing to Magna being Opel's partner.
They just talked down Magna, said one source.
The Opel Trust's board is comprised of two General Motors representatives and two for Germany, one for Berlin and a delegate for the four federal states in which Opel has a plant. A fifth neutral board member has no vote.
The German government's representative on the board, Manfred Wennemer, was leaning towards an offer from RHJ, while the states' representative, Dirk Pfeil, had raised the idea of insolvency.
Neither (representative) has been helpful, said one person involved in the negotiations, echoing the views of others. We need to get them back on board.
The neutral fifth member of the Trust board -- Fred Irwin, president of the American Chambers of Commerce in Germany -- may be forced to try to actively broker a deal.
Irwin took part in talks at Chancellor Angela Merkel's office on Wednesday, at which GM and German government officials discussed the three offers for Opel. Irwin left the talks without making any comment.
Merkel said on Wednesday Magna is still Germany's preferred partner for Opel.
Magna wants to expand Opel's full-scale car assembly business and forecasts high growth rates, particularly in Russia, home of consortium partner Sberbank (SBER03.MM).
RHJ aims to shrink production to return Opel to profit and may be open to selling it back to GM at a later date. (Additional reporting by Rene Wagner; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Greg Mahlich)