labels: Fiat, General Motors
German officials see Magna's Opel bid superior to Fiat's news
23 May 2009

German official are finding automotive system supplier Magna International's offer for General Motors' German unit Opel more interesting that those submitted by other two bidders, Fiat SpA, and Belgium-based industrial holding company RHJ International.

Reports say that the two governors of the German states of Hesse and Thuringia favour Magna's bid.

Roland Koch, the premier of Opel's home state of Hesse said on German radio that the Magna offer was 'closest to the hopes and wishes' of German politicians and the 25,000 Opel workers based here. He called the Fiat offer disappointing. (See: Fiat is third in the Opel acquisition sweepstakes).

There is an ''interesting bid on the table,'' Koch told reporters at the sidelines of a meeting in Berlin. Thuringia's governor Dieter Althaus also voiced support for Magna's bid.

''The Magna concept focuses heavily on new ideas, new markets and new clients, while the others focus more on rationalisation,'' Koch said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Koch are due to meet in Berlin to discuss the bids.

"I think there is a ranking in which the offer from Magna is closest to the hopes and wishes of many in the German political arena but also the workers," Koch told German radio before the meeting.

"There is a very interesting bid from a financial investor with the group from Ripplewood," he said, referring to Belgian-listed RHJ International.

"And surely some are disappointed that the Fiat bid is very far from what some had hoped. It is a bid which requires new thinking if it is to be considered. There is a clear ranking."

At a briefing in Berlin, Magna co-chief executive Siegfried Wolf reiterated his company's idea of retaining all four German plants and jobs intact. Wolf suggested that job cuts would centre on Opel sites in Belgium and Britain.

Magna's planning is based on Russian partner Sberbank and GM each holding a 35-per cent stake in Opel, with Magna taking 20 per cent and employees 10 per cent.

On the other hand, Fiat said that it may shut down some German operations and jobs. owever, Fiat on Friday said the job cuts will be below 10,000, and not 18,000 as projected by some newspapers.

In addition, Fiat is believed to be seeking some 7 billion euros in government support for its scheme, about 2 billion more than Magna and RHJ say they require.

''Under our concept the German sites are seen as assets and we want to keep as many jobs as possible,'' Magna's Wolf said. 'There is a lot of know-how within the German Opel plants.''

Analysts hope Berlin will favour Magna because of its superior understanding of ground realities in this time of recession.

The US government has given GM until 1 June  to restructure its operations and prove it can be viable without state aid, or face probable bankruptcy.

Though the final decision on Opel will be taken at the GM's boardroom, the beleaguered carmaker is expecting billions of euros in German financial aid.

After having bagged Chrysler, Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne is now eyeing Opel to create a new force in European auto. ''Fiat has more than a 50-per cent chance of pulling off its bid for Opel," he told the Italian daily La Stampa on Thursday.

The Magna deal impressed the German local authorities more because it is also planning a tie up with Russian carmaker Gaz, which may enable Opel-GM to gain a 20 per cent market share in Russia in the short-term and eventually sell 1 million vehicles there.

Magna is based in Aurora, Ontario. It has 326 manufacturing plants, engineering centers and sales offices across North America, South America, Asia and Europe that employ about 82,000 people.

Last year Magna reported a profit of $71 million on sales of $23.7 billion.

About 14 per cent of its sales last year came from assembling complete cars and trucks. The company renewed its contract with Daimler in February to build the Mercedes-Benz G- Class offroad vehicle at its Magna Steyr unit in Austria, through 2015.

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German officials see Magna's Opel bid superior to Fiat's