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Opel dealers bid for stake

2009-05-15 14:59
Dealers for General Motors Corp.'s Opel unit hope to help save the European auto maker and secure a minority stake by investing up to €500 million ($680 million), their association said Friday.

Representatives of the European Opel Dealer Association from 25 countries met in Vienna to endorse the plan, originally floated in March. They hope to secure a seat on Opel's supervisory board with their proposal.

The plan foresees that, over three years, Opel and Vauxhall dealers would put €150 ($204) into a fund for each new car sold.

It was unclear how large the resulting stake might be. Euroda's deputy chairman, Albert Still, said a 10-15% range looks likely, with the realistic maximum at 20%.

Euroda chairman Jaap Timmer said in a telephone conference call that "we still have to fill in a lot of details" on how the plan might work. If a major investor wants money up front, "we will have to negotiate that," he said.

Timmer said the dealers hope to start talks next week with GM, Opel and European governments, and also would like to talk with potential major investors to determine whether they are interested.

Global powerhouse

Italy's Fiat SpA wants to make GM Europe, including Opel, part of a global powerhouse also including Chrysler LLC.

As a possible alternative, Canadian auto parts maker Magna International has said it is in talks about options for Opel that might include taking a minority stake, but otherwise has given few details.

The German government expects both of those suitors to give more details of their plans by May 20.

Euroda's Still said every country's dealer association endorsed pursuing the plan on Friday apart from Finland's representatives, who abstained.

"To what extent our ideas can be fulfilled of course depends on negotiations and to what extents investors want us in a new Opel-Vauxhall company," he said.

"It could be historic that, for the first time, dealers participate in their manufacturer in a noteworthy extent and so gain a certain degree of influence on the future policy of the producer," Still added.

Opel parent GM faces a June 1 deadline to restructure or file for bankruptcy. Berlin is keen to ensure the future of Opel - which employs some 25 000 people in Germany, nearly half GM Europe's total work force.

Opel spokesman Andreas Kroemer said the company welcomes "the dealers' dedication to Opel and strong bond with the brand." He did not comment further on the dealers' plan.


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