Opel workers, politicians seek Magna deal answers

Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:52pm EDT
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By Maria Sheahan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Workers at Opel, German politicians and customers of Canada's Magna expressed concern on Friday about whether General Motors' decision to sell a majority of Opel to Magna and Russia's Sberbank will turn out to be a favorable deal.

Many of their questions about state aid and possible plant closures remained unanswered, however, and some details are yet to be worked out between the German government, GM and the Magna consortium before the deal's closing, which is expected by the end of November.

GM agreed this week to sell a 55 percent stake of the European carmaker to the consortium, ending months of fraught negotiations that had weighed on Opel and its 50,000 workers.

Two people close to the deal told Reuters on Friday that further details to be worked out concern primarily the German federal and state government's commitments to provide aid for Opel and did not pose a threat to the deal's completion.

Germany has promised 4.5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in state guarantees, to which other European governments were expected to contribute. But as the dust settled on the Opel deal, it was still unclear when and how much they would give.

"We'll make a decision (on the timing) once we have further details," a spokesman for Spain's industry ministry said.

Any aid will require approval by the European Union.

Opel has four plants in Germany that make cars ranging from the three-door Corsa subcompact to Zafira vans, two factories in Britain under the Vauxhall badge, and major sites in Belgium, Poland and Spain.   Continued...

<p>General Motors chief Opel negotiator John Smith attends a news conference in Berlin, September 10, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>