Magna sees Opel deal in September, Berlin cautious

Wed Jun 3, 2009 3:49pm EDT
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By Rene Wagner and Angelika Gruber

BERLIN/RUESSELSHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Canadian car parts group Magna International Inc said on Wednesday it expects to complete a takeover of Opel in September, but the German government made clear the door remains open to rival bidders.

Berlin agreed on Saturday to provide 1.5 billion euros ($2.14 billion) in bridge financing to Opel as part of a deal to shield the company from U.S. parent General Motors Corp's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

The basis for providing the funds was a preliminary deal between Magna and GM, but Germany has stressed so far that other bidders, including Italy's Fiat SpA and China's BAIC, still would have a shot if they improved their bids.

"The process is still open to all the bidders," government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told reporters in Berlin.

A German official told Reuters that BAIC representatives had met with government members and made clear they would "seriously consider" a more detailed bid if talks with Magna failed.

The government has an interest in keeping up the pressure on Magna until a deal is closed that satisfies Berlin's demands.

But Magna is the clear favorite to do a deal, particularly as its main rival bidder, Fiat, has said it was focusing on reviving Chrysler LLC.

After being criticized for doing nothing to help Fiat's bid, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday his government would be willing to intervene with Germany to support another Fiat bid if the automaker wanted.   Continued...

<p>Magna co-Chief Executive Siegfried Wolf (R) and GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster attend a news conference after talks in the headquarters of German car manufacturer Opel in Ruesselsheim June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>