Magna Says EU Won't Block Opel Deal

FRANKFURT (AP) -- The co-chief executive of Magna International Inc. said Tuesday that he doesn't believe the European Union will block his company's acquisition of a majority stake in Opel.

"The whole idea is based on economics and I cannot imagine that someone has something against economics," Siegfried Wolf said at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, where Opel debuted a new version of its Astra, its mainstay in European markets.

Wolf's comments came as a German government official met with representatives of six other European countries that host Opel factories to discuss sharing the burden of the euro4.5 billion ($6.55 billion) in state guarantees needed to launch the new Opel.

Magna and Russian bank Sberbank are to take a 55 percent stake in the General Motors Co.'s European subsidiary, which GM is parting with after going through bankruptcy restructuring in the U.S.

The Astra gives a preview of GM's plans for small cars in the United States. GM will keep a minority stake so it can keep on developing small and medium sized cars with Opel. The Astra uses an architecture Opel developed for GM to use in small cars worldwide.

The new five-door Astra compact will go for euro15,900; an estate, or station wagon, version is due next year and a three-door model is being planned, too.

Opel CEO Carl-Peter Forster said the new Astra feature reduced CO2 emissions and better fuel efficiency.

Germany's offer of euro4.5 billion in credit to Magna and Sberbank has led to concern in other European countries where Adam Opel GmbH has facilities that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government were engaging in protectionism. Magna has pledged to keep all four Opel plants in Germany open.

Belgium has asked the European Union to investigate the deal to make sure Germany is not violating antitrust rules.

Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian made clear after the meeting in Berlin that his nation was not prepared to provide financial support to the project and supported the EU investigation.

"We want to have more information about the future of the project" before pledging any financial backing, Sebastian said.

On Monday, Wolf reiterated that as many as 10,500 Opel jobs in Europe could be cut, nearly half of them in Germany.

Opel employs some 49,000 workers in Europe, with 25,000 of them in Germany, and has plants including in Spain, Britain, Poland and Germany.

GM said then that work at the Antwerp plant could be wound down and that some production at Zaragoza, Spain could be moved to Eisenach, Germany.

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