Mandelson in Berlin to talk Vauxhall jobs

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The Independent Online

Lord Mandelson was in Berlin yesterday to barter for Vauxhall's 5000 UK jobs with Siegfried Wolf, the chief executive of Magna International, the Canadian car parts group in pole position to take over Vauxhall parent GM Europe (GME).

The GME/Magna deal will be lubricated with money from both the UK government and its German counterpart - on behalf of Opel, the biggest marque in the stable - and yesterday's talks focused on how much Magna wants and what guarantees can be made in return.

The UK Business Secretary described Magna's plans for Vauxhall as "very ambitious", suggesting the company is looking for a substantial amount from the government.

Although some UK job losses are inevitable as GME's new owner addresses overcapacity issues across Europe, the government wants both guarantees that cuts will be kept to a minimum, and undertakings for the longest possible period that production will remain here.

Lord Mandelson said: "We have to be satisfied not only with the viability of the company going forward, we also have to be satisfied... that what is finally agreed offers value for money to the British taxpayer."

Meanwhile the German economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, said his government has not ruled out approaches from other bidders. "We are still in contact with other investors. BAIC [the Chinese car maker] for example... and others that I will not speak about here," he said.

But sources close to the discussions said the Chinese company remains an outside chance and Magna is still very much the front runner.

Executives from the Canadian group will be in London on Monday for talks with senior officials at the Department for Business.