General Motors has made little progress in resolving the key issues holding up a sale of its Opel operations to a consortium led by Magna, the U.S. carmaker's chief negotiator on the deal said on Thursday.
GM Group Vice President John Smith said in a blog entry that the two companies had started this week with about 30 issues remaining to be resolved, and while some problems could be solved others reappeared.
Smith also cast doubt whether the industrial concept of Magna and its two Russian partners, which is being favoured by the German government, was superior to that of financial investor RHJ International.
I can report some progress (with Magna), resolving perhaps one-third of the issues during a first day of talks. However, the difficulties of getting to 'yes' with three parties in the room were very much in evidence yesterday, Smith wrote.
Little progress was made in whittling down the outstanding issues, in part reflecting the return of some issues that we previously considered to be resolved.
Germany has told GM that the only way it would grant Opel billions of euros in state aid is if the U.S. carmaker sells majority control in its German unit to a private investor, but support from labour and Berlin has been behind Magna.
Smith explained that most of his time in talks with Magna was still devoted to resolving deviations from a memorandum of understanding signed late in May between GM and Magna, of which some were very fundamental in nature, according to GM's negotiator.
Issues discussed included Opel's involvement with Chevrolet in Russia, intellectual property transfer rights in Russia, advanced technology access, product development responsibilities, and minority shareholder rights.
Smith disagreed that Magna's proposal offered either a substantially better future for Opel or one with greater freedom from ex-parent GM.
There is really very little difference between the two proposals' product, manufacturing and purchasing plans, the three big value-adding levers in the automobile business, he wrote.
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(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner)