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11 Nov, 2009 09:17

Sberbank may sue GM over Opel deal

Sberbank CEO, German Gref, says his company is prepared to bring litigation against GM after it backed out of selling its German arm, Opel, to the Magna-Sberbank consortium.

Emphasising that Sberbank hopes to avoid a lawsuit, Gref said the joint venture partners who had hoped to buy into Opel, were in discussions with GM, to come to an agreement about costs incurred during the protracted negotiation process. He made it clear that Sberbank could take legal action if no resolution is found.

“I hope that we shall be able to settle all issues out of court, but we shall be prepared to defend our position in courts of law.”

Gref said the proposal, which was to have seen GM sell a majority stake in Opel to Magna and Sberbank, involved considerable work, which had been rendered worthless when GM, in a sudden about face, declared it was not going to sell Opel last week.

“The situation is very clear, but the reason why General Motors has changed its decision over a period of four to six weeks so radically is anyone’s guess. We are holding consultations with GM. We have entered into legal relations with them, because all issues must have a civilized solution.”

In Vienna, Vice-President of Canadian-Austrian partner Magna, Siegfried Wolf, said to ORF radio in Austria that GM should be responsible for compensation of costs involved in the failed purchase of Opel, which is estimated at around 100 million Euros.

“In reality we spent an awful sum, because we had to address complex tasks.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in on the pull out of GM from the deal saying that she “very much regretted” the decision by GM to call off the sale, adding that she was expecting to see a clear restructuring plan for the German arm soon.

“We expect General Motors quickly to come up with a reliable concept that gives Opel Europe and the German sites the chance of a good future.”

The German Chancellor added that GM should pay back a 1.5 billion Euro guarantee for a bridge loan that was granted to Opel earlier this year. Senior GM Officials countered by noting that GM had already commenced repayments with GM CEO, Fritz Henderson making clear this would be complete by the end of November.

“We never fully drew the bridge loan. First of all it was a billion-and-a-half euros, I think it reached a billion-two. We paid back 300 million of it. We are in the process of paying it back now and will be fully repaid prior to the end of November."