* UK Vauxhall union Unite says agrees deal with Magna
* Deal on Opel sale could come this week, GM CEO says
* Britain says some way to go before financing deal agreed
* GM CEO says not talking to China regulators about Hummer
* Sees continued significant growth in China auto market
(Recasts, changes dateline, adds UK union comment)
By Fang Yan and Matt Scuffham
SHANGHAI/LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Agreement between Magna and a UK labour union on Tuesday brought closer a final deal for General Motors [GM.UL] to sell a majority stake in its European carmaking arm Opel to a Canadian-Russian consortium.
Talks with governments and labour representatives on the restructing of Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall that is set to lead to thousands of job cuts across Europe have dragged on for months, fuelling anger among staff, half of whom are in Germany.
UK-based union Unite said it had reached an agreement with Magna “after weeks of extensive negotiations”. Vauxhall employs around 5,500 people. [ID:nWLA5549]
Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said production at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility would “grow significantly” to almost 148,000 units and that its Luton plant would remain “a key manufacturing site”.
He added that 600 jobs that would otherwise have been lost had been preserved, and Magna had agreed not to implement any enforced redundancies.
Britain’s Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the deal was much better than had been originally put forward but added “we still have some way to go in agreeing the financing”. However he said he expected an agreement would be reached.
“I need to be convinced that the terms and conditions for the financing will be of the sort and standard that the government expects when we put taxpayers’ money into a company like this,” he told BBC TV.
Spanish labour unions said on Tuesday no agreement had been reached with Magna over jobs in Spain at the Opel factory in Zaragoza. [ID:nMDT008672]
GM decided last month to sell a 55 percent stake in Opel to a consortium including Canada’s Magna MGa.TO and Russia’s Sberbank SBER03.MM.
“It’s quite possible to see documents signed this week,” GM CEO Fritz Henderson told reporters in Shanghai.
German Gref, CEO of Russian partner Sberbank, told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday that he did not know when Magna would sign the deal. “When we start to sign, we will announce it,” he said.
Magna and the Russian bank have vowed to inject 500 million euros ($739 million) into Opel, aiming to use it to make an aggressive push into the Russian market, and plan to cut about 10,500 European jobs.
GM finalised a deal with Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery last Friday on the sale of its Hummer business [ID:nN0975184], although the deal still faces a number of hurdles including regulatory approvals. [ID:nHKG219405]
Henderson told a Shanghai news conference that it was not on his agenda during his trip to China to talk to Chinese regulators about the deal. He however said GM would do everything it could to support Tengzhong in getting approval from Chinese regulators.
China’s auto market, the world’s biggest, got a strong boost this year from government policies, including tax incentives for small cars and subsidies for buyers in rural areas.
Henderson was upbeat on the prospects for the Chinese auto market, forecasting that it would continue to grow at a significant pace after strong sales rises in recent months. [ID:nSHA305740]
“I don’t for a second think it is a blip. I think the China market will continue to grow and we see substantial opportunities,” he said.
GM makes cars, minivans, pickup trucks and light commercial vehicles in a tie-up with SAIC Motor (600104.SS) and FAW Group.
Reporting by Fang Yan and Edmund Klamann; Additional Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva, Jonathan Gleave, Matt Scuffham and Michael Holden; Additional Writing by Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by David Cowell