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'GM must pay for failed Opel deal'

2009-11-10 13:38
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Tuesday on US car giant General Motors to foot the bill for restructuring its troubled European subsidiary Opel after it decided to keep the unit rather than sell it.

In her first comments on Opel since GM's abrupt about-turn last week, Merkel said she "regretted enormously" the decision not to sell to Berlin's preferred consortium, which threw the future of Germany's 25 000 Opel workers into doubt.

"Any solution (for Opel) will only succeed if GM bears the majority of the restructuring costs with its own means," she said.

"This also means that GM needs to pay back its bridging loans," she added, referring to the 1.5-billion-euro (2.25-billion-dollar) loan Berlin granted to keep the company afloat.

"Workable concept"

"We are expecting General Motors quickly to provide a workable concept that will give Opel ... and its German plant the chance of a good future," said the chancellor, who has invested huge amounts of political capital in Opel's fate.

General Motors' shock decision to pull out of a planned sale to Canadian car maker Magna and Russia's Sberbank sparked fury in Germany and prompted workers across Europe to down tools and hit the streets in protest.

GM says it will have to eliminate around 10,000 positions to keep Opel and British sister firm Vauxhall running, slightly fewer than Magna said it would cut, but German unions fear jobs cuts will hurt them more than under Magna's management.

A report in Tuesday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung cited US ratings agency Moody's as saying that General Motors will need more than five billion euros to turn around Opel, rather than the three billion GM has mentioned before.

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