* Interested in joint venture should Magna , investors acquire Opel
* Analysts say GAZ doesn’t have money, but has an idle plant
(Adds analyst comments, background)
MOSCOW, May 12 (Reuters) - Russian carmaker GAZ GAZA.RTS said on Tuesday it would be interested in creating a joint venture with Canadian auto parts maker Magna MGa.TO and Opel, should the latter be acquired by a group of investors.
Canadian auto parts maker Magna and Italy's Fiat FIA.MI have been looking at GM's GM.N European business, centred around Opel. [nN06502855] [ID:nN11549649]
Analysts say GAZ could provide production facilities, but not money, for a potential partnership.
And while expressing interest in the company, debt-laden GAZ -- controlled by Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska -- did not say it was interested in the bidding process itself.
“The role of GAZ Group in the project would potentially consist of organising manufacturing of passenger cars on its modern high-tech passenger car production site built in the Nizhny Novgorod plant in 2008,” the company said in a statement. [ID:nLD194667]
GAZ had planned to produce 60,000 cars a year at the plant, based on Chrysler’s Sebring design, but produced only 200 in the first quarter.
Analysts say GAZ does not have the money to buy a stake in Opel itself, but could benefit from a partnership by utilising its currently idle facilities.
“Maybe GAZ will get a certain stake in a joint venture which in turn will bid for Opel,” said Mikhail Pak of IFC Metropol.
Finam analyst Constantin Romanov said the Nizhny Novgorod plant could produce about 200,000 cars a year.
“For GAZ this is an interesting way to employ its facilities,” he said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a newspaper interview at the weekend that Magna had asked GAZ and unnamed Russian financial institutions to make a bid for a stake in Opel. He said the government would not intervene in any possible deal.
German media reports have said Magna's other partner would be Russia's top lender, state-run Sberbank SBER03.MM. Sberbank has repeatedly declined to comment.
During his two terms as Russia’s president Putin built close links with Germany making it one of Russia’s key partners in Europe.
GM Europe has said $1.2 billion worth of cost cuts could help Opel return to profit by 2011. It has also said it needs 3.3 billion euros ($4.50 billion) in state aid from European governments to avert job cuts and site closures.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to help Opel and save jobs to avoid mass layoffs in the run-up to a federal election in September. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Anton Doroshev) ($1=.7336 euros)
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