Magna set to acquire Opel and Vauxhall

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The Independent Online

The takeover of GM Europe by the Russian-Canadian Magna consortium seemed all but complete last night, as the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, indicated that she favoured that group over a rival bid from RHJ International, a US private equity firm.

Mrs Merkel said that a German task force would decide at the weekend on bids for GM Europe, which includes the Opel and Vauxhall operations, but could not rule out a difference of opinion with the car maker's parent company General Motors.

"We want a quick decision, and have a clear preference," she said. Adding that her government still preferred the bid from Magna, who have undertaken to save German jobs. Deputy Chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, added: "I am pleased that we found investors who are prepared to invest in keeping jobs here."

For their part, Magna, who were designated a preferred bidder earlier in the summer, said "the open questions have been closed" in negotiations between GM and their management, and that the complex sales contract will now to go GM's board.

The Magna bid – from a consortium of Magna International and Russian lender Sberbank, where the oligarch Oleg Deripaska has control – is the one preferred by the Berlin government but the final decision lies with GM.

GM Europe said in a statement: "Magna and Sberbank provided to GM and the German automotive task force revised draft agreements. GM will be reviewing these documents over the next few days. The automotive task force will be reviewing as well, as GM has requested from the task force an outline of the financing package that the German government, and other European governments, would support."

An RHJ spokesman said: "We are still very much in the race."

Concerns in the UK centre on Vauxhall's two remaining operations in the UK, employing 5,000 people at plants in Ellesmere Port, a car factory, and Luton, where it manufactures vans. Of the two the Luton plant is thought to be more in greater jeopardy.