RHJ Wants Stake In Opel

BERLIN (AP) -- Investor RHJ International SA said Monday it is in advanced negotiations with General Motors Corp. on possibly taking a majority stake in the U.S. auto maker's European Opel unit.

Brussels-based RHJ said in a brief statement that discussions with GM "have been taking place over a number of weeks and are at an advanced stage."

The company did not specify how big a stake it aims to take or what the talks are focused on. The announcement came even as Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russia's Sberbank continue their own talks with GM to rescue Opel.

German officials have stressed that a deal earlier this year for Magna and Sberbank to move ahead with a takeover of Opel is preliminary and have said that until a final agreement is nailed down other potential suitors remain in play -- including China's Beijing Automotive Industry Corp.

Last week, GM confirmed that BAIC had put in its own bid for Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Adam Opel GmbH, whose brands include Opel and Vauxhall.

Italy's Fiat Group SpA, originally Magna's main rival, pulled out of talks with the German government in June over Opel, citing what it said then were unreasonable funding demands. It has said it remains interested, however.

Detroit-based GM, which emerged from bankruptcy protection last week, has remade itself as a smaller, leaner automaker in a broad restructuring that is slashing the company's units and brands.

RHJ calls itself a diversified holding company that "generally acquires businesses that are undermanaged" yet have strong growth potential.

Its holdings -- from which it derives its revenue -- include majority stakes in auto parts makers Asahi Tec Corp. and Niles Co. Ltd., both of Japan, and Belgium's Honsel International Technologies SA. It also holds stakes in resort operator Phoenix Resort K.K. and Columbia Music Entertainment Inc. in Japan.

According to its preliminary income statement, the company posted revenues of euro3 billion ($4.2 billion) in the fiscal year ending March 31 compared with nearly euro4.2 billion a year earlier. The full report is scheduled to be released July 31.

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