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GM to settle Euro business by June

2009-05-12 06:35

GM chief executive Fritz Henderson

Detroit - General Motors Corp said on Monday it was interested in retaining a minority stake in its restructured European operations and plans to have a framework for a deal to sell the division by the end of the month.

"We're speaking with multiple bidders with the objective to at least have some understanding of what an agreement would look like," GM chief executive Fritz Henderson said on a conference call, referring to its European operations. "And our target is do it slightly before the end of this month."

Italian automaker Fiat SpA, which has agreed to take a stake in Chrysler LLC, has emerged as one of the key bidders for GM's European operations. Fiat aims to merge its car business with GM's European brands, Opel, Vauxhall and Saab, as well as its South American and South African operations, according to a presentation obtained by Reuters.

Magna International Inc, an Austrian-Canadian car parts manufacturer has also expressed interest in Opel.

GM said that, while it is looking for a buyer, it is willing to retain a stake in the operations.

"We certainly indicated a willingness to consider moving into a minority position," Henderson said.

More cash required

GM Europe has said it needs to cut costs by $1.2 billion to return German brand Opel to profit by 2011. It has also said it needs 3.3 billion euros in state aid from European governments to avert job cuts and site closures.

"With respect to the German government, we have a need for funding actually in our European business that is important and urgent," Fritz said. "We're going make sure that any partner we pick for the business would be suitable for them."

Fritz declined to comment on the future of the Vauxhall operations or whether GM's Latin American operations would be included as part of any sale of its European unit.

"Our business in Latin America has been a very solid contributor in the last several years, it's a business that we know well and operated well and got great returns," he said. "This is a business we know and we like very much and I am not going to comment very much on what role it might play in negotiations."

GM, which is operating with US government aid, has until June 1 to reach deals that would slash debt owed to bondholders and the United Auto Workers union and to win concessions from the union that would cut operating costs under terms set by the Obama administration's autos task force.

GM also has a number of North American assets for sale, including its Hummer brand and Saturn operations.

The automaker has been trying to sell its Hummer brand since June and was looking to drop its Pontiac brand as part of a sweeping restructuring.

Henderson said the automaker received three offers several weeks ago on Hummer.

"We're negotiating with two parties today to try to reach some acceptable terms," he said. "It's something that's getting done."

On Saturn, Henderson said a number of parties have emerged who are interested in taking over the operations. 

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