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13 Aug, 2009 19:25

GM decision time enters home straight on Opel bids

Canadian car parts group Magna, along with Russia's Sberbank, have come up with a revised offer to buy General Motors German subsidiary, Opel, which will now go to GM's board.

Ready to do the deal – that’s what Magna says after months of negotiations to buy Opel. General Motors, less optimistic about a speedy signing, did confirm it had received an updated bid from Magna – Sberbank on Thursday morning, adding that it was expecting a similarly updated bid by rival, Ripplewood Holdings, or RHJ, sometime soon.

What's new in the latest offer?

GM had been reluctant to hand over its technology and designs, and the first Magna bid foundered on this issue. Metropol analyst, Mikhail Pak, believes that this is where the changes will be.

“Maybe they are trying somehow to formulate the agreement in a way that Magna will have a restricted access with its production to certain markets. Maybe it will not be able to produce some of the models or it might be able to use these technologies in some platforms but to a limited extent.”

GM may now get paid for its intellectual property rights. It also wants to retain access to Opel's parts market.

Finally, it's looking for new financial commitments from the German government – which is currently bankrolling Opel. Christoph Stuermer, Automotive Expert at HIS Global Insight says a decision and handover could take some time.

“The German state has deep enough pockets to just keep Opel running further for as much time as they need. I think it’s still going to take a couple of days before we will have a definite decision and then the closing and the handover will take another couple of weeks if not months. I don’t expect anything to happen before fall.”

The German government clearly favours the Russo-Canadian bid, but it's still a close race, with RHJ believed to be asking for less government guarantee. Magna and Sberbank are offering to pay about 500 million euro for a combined 55% stake in Opel, which would leave GM and employees as shareholders.