(Reuters) - In the race to acquire General Motors Corp’s European carmaker Opel, Canadian-Austrian group Magna International Inc took the lead on Friday, with sources saying it had reached a preliminary deal.
Below are comments made by Magna co-Chief Executive Siegfried Wolf to reporters in Berlin last week about his plans for Opel:
GM would still hold 35 percent of Opel. Russian state-controlled bank Sberbank would own another 35 percent while Magna has 20 percent. The remaining 10 percent would be in the hands of Opel’s 50,000 European employees.
“Our interest is for the long run. There are no deals of any kind whatsoever to sell the shares (to other investors or Opel owners).”
It plans to inject 500-700 million euros into Opel, to be split proportionately between the two financial participants. None of the funds would be paid to GM.
The consortium also plans to ask the German government to guarantee credit lines to the tune of 4-5 billion euros.
“We expect a time horizon of 24 months after closing before Opel will be in a position to earn money again,” Wolf said.
Wolf said Magna’s proposal called for “considerably fewer” job cuts than the 18,000 labor unions fear are planned by Fiat SpA.
He said cuts would be “calculated to the size of the market.” A German official said the plan envisioned 10,000 job cuts in Europe.
All four German Opel sites would be guaranteed, but its Antwerp plant in Belgium and the Vauxhall sites in England -- Luton and Ellesmere Port -- could be closed under Magna’s plans. Wolf promised only to look for ways to keep them open.
One method would be to attract GM or third-party carmakers to build their cars in Antwerp, for example.
Management under GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster would stay on board.
“Opel is positioned well in terms of its management and we are committed to the existing team as it stands now,” Wolf said.
GAZ will serve as a industrial partner for Opel. Magna plans for Opel and GM to gain 20 percent of the Russian market in the short term, before expanding this to 1 million units including light commercial vehicles like the Opel Combo transporter.
GAZ’s biggest creditor is Sberbank, which would hold all of the 35 percent Russian stake in Opel and share proportionately in the investments.
Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Greg Mahlich