Cash-strapped General Motors
Opel's woes are part of
parent company GM's struggle to survive as it turns to the U.S.
government for emergency aid and faces a June 1 deadline to restructure
its bond debt and reach a deal with its major union.
A spokesman for GM Europe said interest was concrete enough to expect at least three bids for a stake in Opel on Wednesday.
SpA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne recently agreed to take a stake
in U.S. maker Chrysler LLC and has outlined plans to form the world's
second-largest autos group behind Japan's Toyota Motor Corp
<7203.T> by bringing together Fiat, Chrysler and GM assets
including Opel and its UK affiliate, Vauxhall.
Another bidder for a stake in Opel is Canadian-Austrian parts supplier and auto assembler Magna
Belgium-based holding company RHJ International
this month Russian bank Sberbank said it was also considering a role an
Opel deal, which German media said could involve a bid teamed with
Opel sought 3.3 billion euros ($4.50 billion) in state
loans and guarantees from European countries where it has factories as
part of a restructuring plan.
Fiat has told the German government
it would need up to 7 billion euros from relevant governments if it
enters into a deal to take a stake in Opel.
Fiat's Chrysler deal also involves the U.S. government aid.
Magna has proposed opening
up under-used Opel plants to other automakers and allowing them to use
Opel platforms to bring niche models to market quickly.
Italy's Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said he thought Fiat had a good chance of closing a deal.
group less enthused about Fiat's proposal is Opel's unions, which fear
that overlapping product ranges could spell plant closures in Germany,
Austria, Britain or Belgium.
German states where Opel has plants
are willing to offer up to 750 million euros in bridge financing for
Opel, Juergen Reinholz, economy minister of German state Thuringia,
said on Wednesday.
Opel labor leader Klaus Franz told Reuters in
an interview that a final deal for Opel could take several weeks but he
did not exclude the possibility that a letter of intent could be
presented this week.
It will be a crucial issue whether an
investor submits a memorandum of understanding which then would form
the basis for further negotiations, he said.
If an investor is really interested in us, then that could certainly be the case. I can definitely imagine that.
I expect more offers than just from Fiat and Magna, Franz said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with ministers including Economy
Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Finance Minister Peer
Steinbrueck following a regular cabinet meeting, sources close to the
German government told Reuters.
Opel's future is a hot political
topic ahead of German elections in September, and Berlin wants to find
a quick solution. GM will decide which investor gets Opel, but it has
said the German government will play a big role.
On Tuesday, the government reached agreement with major banks on a
way to provide bridge financing for Opel if needed, the European
Investment Bank said.
The German government wants Opel assets
ring-fenced from GM creditors and overseen by a trustee if GM is forced
to file for bankruptcy.