Germany Evaluates Opel Bailout

Economy minister met with the bosses of Adam Opel to discuss General Motors' request for $4.2 billion in aid.

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's economy minister said Monday that the government would not be pushed into a hasty decision after General Motors Corp's Opel unit called for €3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in aid.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg met with the bosses of Adam Opel GmbH at his ministry to discuss a plan the company drew up last week.

GM Europe proposed Friday that Opel loosen its ties with its beleaguered U.S. parent and said it would need €3.3 billion in financing or guarantees from European authorities over the next two years. The aim would be to pay the money back in 2014 or 2015.

"We will not allow ourselves to make a decision under pressure," Guttenberg said after the meeting with GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster, Adam Opel GmbH CEO Hans Demant, and Klaus Franz, German-based Opel's top employee representative.

Officials had demanded a plan for the company's future before the government would consider any aid to help preserve the roughly 25,000 jobs at Opel's various German facilities. Another stipulation was that no aid should flow to Opel's U.S. parent in Detroit.

Company managers have said they envision Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall becoming at least partially independent of GM; Opel would be open to investors, who could take 25 percent or more of the unit.

Before the meeting at the Economy Ministry, Guttenberg said on ARD television that the government would carry out a "very far-reaching examination" of the company's proposals to make sure that Opel has "a truly viable perspective for the future."

Only then will a decision be made on whether to provide Opel with financial backing.

"We're dealing with taxpayer money and therefore we need sound consideration," he said.

Through the week, Guttenberg plans further meetings with his counterparts in four German states where Opel factories are located.

He said after the meeting that he expected to discuss the issue further with GM leaders when he visits the United States in two weeks.

Forster said the company expected other European countries with ties to Opel to be involved in a financial rescue, but that there were no details yet.

"How much and in what form has not yet been discussed," he said.

Neither the German government nor the automaker would say exactly how long they expect the discussions to take.

"We agree there are some points open to discuss, and now the experts will get to work on the points," GM Europe spokesman Frank Klaas said at the Geneva Auto Show. He declined to say what those points are.

Opel employs about 25,000 workers in Germany and also builds cars in Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Britain.

Employee representatives have advocated spinning off Opel from General Motors, which reported a $9.6 billion fourth-quarter loss on Thursday amid the worst U.S. auto sales climate since 1982.

More in Supply Chain