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Germany: Opel Aid May Need Renegotiating

German government made clear its financial support for an Opel takeover will have to be renegotiated if GM chooses a suitor other than auto parts maker Magna.

BERLIN (AP) -- The German government made clear Wednesday that its financial support for a takeover of General Motors Corp.'s Opel unit will have to be renegotiated if GM chooses a suitor other than auto parts maker Magna.

Germany-based Opel's future appeared all but settled six weeks ago when, after two late-night negotiating marathons, a preliminary agreement was signed for a consortium of Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank to move ahead with a rescue of the unit.

The German government, keen to safeguard jobs, agreed to provide a euro1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) bridge loan.

Since then, the situation has become murkier, with China's Beijing Automotive Industry Corp. entering a bid and investor RHJ International SA saying this week that its own negotiations with GM are "at an advanced stage."

German government spokesman Thomas Steg said it had been understood all along that the initial deal with Magna was not final and that other suitors still had a chance. However, he made clear that the financial aid pledged for a possible Magna takeover would not automatically go to others.

In May, "negotiations with all the others did not get as far or were not even taken up," Steg said at a regular government news conference.

"Consequently, should GM reach an agreement with another party, which at this point is purely hypothetical, it would have to say what it expects from the government and that would have to be negotiated," Steg said.

Employee representatives have been angered by the ongoing uncertainty over the future of Adam Opel GmbH, and have voiced worries that RHJ's aim may be simply to sell Opel back to parent GM.

"With 'more of the same,' the company will fail," the employee council wrote in a protest flier this week.

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