Solarworld says plans to bid for German Opel sites

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German solar company SolarWorld on Wednesday announced a surprise plan to offer to buy General Motors Corp’s four German Opel plants as well as its research center in Ruesselsheim, Germany, sending its shares tumbling.

A clock is pictured at a plant of German car manufacturer Opel in Bochum November 17, 2008. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

The company, which last year had sales of just under 700 million euros, said that it could offer up 250 million euros ($315.6 million) in cash and another 750 million in credit lines, which were conditional on a German government guarantee.

The move comes days after Germany’s state and federal governments said they planned to decide by Christmas whether to extend a guarantee of 1 billion euros to Opel, should its Detroit-based parent General Motors file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

SolarWorld chief executive Frank Asbeck told Reuters his company’s offer for the Opel plants was serious, but declined to detail his strategy for Opel following a potential takeover.

“We have not yet talked with GM,” he said. “We are waiting for a reaction from them.”

Shares in Solarworld fell 15.1 percent to 13.84 euros at 6:41 a.m. EST.

“This is a great gag,” said Juergen Pieper, car analyst at Bankhaus Metzler. “Even if they are serious about this, it is absurd. SolarWorld is only getting itself in the news with this. Opel on its own is hardly able to survive.”

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SolarWorld said that a major precondition for its planned offer was Opel’s complete separation from General Motors and that it would receive a compensation of 40,000 euros per German worker, which it said would amount to around 1 billion euros.

SolarWorld added that should its offer succeed, it would plan to develop a new generation of vehicles at the four plants with energy-efficient and low-emission engines.

Opel has plants in the German cities of Ruesselsheim, Bochum, Eisenach and Kaiserslautern. Its main plant in Ruesselsheim has about 16,000 workers and assembles up to 270,000 vehicles per year.

GM Europe has ruled out a collapse of the German carmaker, which traces its roots back to 1899 and has been part of GM since 1929, longer than rival Volkswagen has existed.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz