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GM calls for state aid in Europe and wants buyers for Vauxhall and Opel

GM, the American motor giant, is considering selling its European brands including Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Germany to try to extricate itself from its financial problems.

The US giant said yesterday that it could either sell an equity stake or involve outside partners in both Opel and Vauxhall. It also warned that its Saab brand in Sweden could go bankrupt before the end of the month without government assistance.

“Management is willing to consider strategic third-party partnerships, alliances and equity stakes in case such an approach is seen as beneficial for GM Europe and Opel/Vauxhall’s viable and sustainable future,” the company said yesterday.

But calls for a $6bn (£4.2bn) rescue package from European governments met with an impassive response. The Swedish industry minister rejected the calls for nationalisation of the ailing motor maker and said the government is not prepared to take the risk with taxpayers’ money.

In Germany, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, said a clear restructuring plan was needed from GM before aid would be considered. In the UK, where GM employs 3,400 people at Vauxhall, a spokesman for the Department for Business said: “We are continuing to discuss the implications of the plan with the company, although there is no specific detail as yet on how it might affect Europe, and how we can continue to help GM in the UK.”

GM, which has already had $13.4bn in aid from the US government since December, says it needs another $9.1bn to secure its future. It plans to slash 47,000 of its 244,000-strong global workforce, and wants to cut $1.2bn out of its European costs by 2011. It is also looking for potential buyers for its Hummer and Saturn brands.