BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Efforts to save two leading European carmakers took a twist on Tuesday that could change the ownership of both crisis-hit General Motors Corp’s Opel and German sportscar maker Porsche.
As GM readied for bankruptcy, the Financial Times reported Belgium-based holding company RHJ International, a former bidder for Opel, was back in the running and close to a deal that would strand Canadian-Austrian auto parts group Magna International.
Elsewhere, Qatar made an offer to the Porsche and Piech families that control the Porsche SE automotive holding that could help cut its debt mountain.
Porsche and Volkswagen have been in talks to create an “integrated” automotive group after Porsche’s 9 billion euro ($12.6 billion) debt burden forced it to drop plans for a full takeover of VW. But progress toward creating a combined company stalled after Porsche chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking sought investment from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
RHJ-OPEL DEAL CLOSE?
The FT reported GM was close to a deal with RHJ to sell a stake in Opel, and a memorandum of understanding could be signed within days.
Talks on a stake in Opel between its parent, GM, and Magna — going on since Magna clinched an agreement just before GM’s bankruptcy filing in May, pipping Fiat to the post at the time — have hit snags, the paper said.
RHJ was named as a potential Opel buyer in media reports but never confirmed or denied it had made an initial bid let alone a second, improved one. But according to the Financial Times, RHJ has improved an earlier bid and is being taken “very seriously” by GM and a memorandum of understanding could be signed in days.
The FT reported RHJ’s new offer was said to be more sensitive to job losses in Germany, which is providing $2.1 billion of bridge financing to keep the carmaker afloat as GM goes through bankruptcy proceedings.
Another sticking point in negotiations with Magna is access to the Detroit carmaker’s global technology, which Magna wants to secure on behalf of Russian partners, the paper said. Magna has teamed up with GAZ and Sberbank for the bid.
RHJ and Magna declined to comment, as did Fiat whose chief executive Sergio Marchionne has said he wants to focus on Chrysler — in which it has taken a 20 percent stake — after the Italian automaker’s bid for Opel failed, and that its existing bid for Opel was the best it can do.
Back in the United States, GM is due to seek approval from a court on Tuesday to sell its assets to a “New GM” in a plan to reinvigorate the automaker under government ownership.
Also on Tuesday, Hyundai Motor Co offered to allow customers to lock in fuel prices for new vehicles in a sales promotion aimed at the economic anxieties of American consumers.
(Reporting by Reuters reporters; Writing by Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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