FRANKFURT General Motors Chief Executive Daniel Akerson has reassured the head of its European arm, Opel, that the U.S. carmaker was not in talks to sell it to a rival, according to a German newspaper.
Akerson made the assurances in a phone call with Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke, Handelsblatt daily reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.
Opel declined to comment on the matter.
GM dropped plans to spin off Opel in 2009 after months of negotiations to sell it, and embarked on a drastic restructuring to get the unit, which lost $1.6 billion last year, back on track. (For a Timeline on Opel, click: )
German media reported last week that GM was considering putting Opel back up for sale, with Europe's biggest carmaker Volkswagen and China's Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co (BAIC) possible buyers.
GM has so far not commented on the reports, despite calls from labor representatives and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to make a public statement on Opel's future.
People familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday that Akerson was frustrated with Opel's inability to return to profit and was reviewing options for the unit.
Akerson was one of only two GM board directors who voted against keeping Opel in late 2009, believing Europe was a market of national champion automakers -- VW in Germany, Fiat in Italy and Renault in France -- and pan-European luxury brands such as BMW and Daimler's Mercedes, a person familiar with Akerson's thinking said.
Opel is neither, and Akerson believed it would be a long battle to fix it, the person added.
Opel is expected to break even this year and show a profit in 2012. But its management has said it will likely take about five years to restore the brand's image in its home market after the carmaker appeared close to the brink for months.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; additional reporting by Jan Schwartz. Editing by Jane Merriman and Will Waterman)