GM Says No Buyer Yet For Opel

BERLIN (AP) -- General Motors Co., the German government and two bidders held a new round of talks Tuesday on the U.S. auto maker's European Opel unit, but GM's chief negotiator made clear that a decision on a buyer wasn't imminent.

GM's John Smith said he hoped the meeting at the Economy Ministry in Berlin "further clarifies the issues from the best and final offers received two weeks ago."

The two potential suitors for Opel are a consortium of Canadian car parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank; and Brussels-based investor RHJ International SA.

GM said its new board of directors was updated on efforts to sell Opel when it held its first meeting on Monday, but received no recommendation on a buyer, given that talks with the bidders are ongoing.

Asked about his expectations of Tuesday's meeting, Smith replied: "If you're asking, do I expect to select one bidder? No."

"Obviously we at GM will need to go back and take everything we've learned from today's proceedings, consider it internally and get to a position on making a recommendation," Smith told reporters.

He would not comment on what points GM felt it still needed to clarify, saying only that he wanted to see "a positive resolution for Opel."

On Monday, German government spokesman Klaus Vater said Berlin sees "encouraging" signs of progress in the negotiations, but did not elaborate.

The government has made clear that it prefers the bid from Magna and stressed that GM needs to take its views into account in deciding on a buyer, because it is offering financial help to make a deal possible.

The talks also are of interest to other European countries, including Britain, where Opel sister brand Vauxhall is based; and Belgium, Spain and Poland, where Opel has operations.

Under a structure created earlier this year to keep Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Opel out of GM's filing for bankruptcy protection, 65 percent of Opel has been formally under the care of a trustee since the beginning of June, with GM holding the remaining 35 percent.

Smith last week wrote that the Magna bid as submitted "contained elements around intellectual property and our Russian operations that simply could not be implemented." He said discussions were ongoing to resolve that.

RHJI's bid "would represent a much simpler structure and would be easier to implement," Smith wrote.

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