Putin Pleased With GM Decision On Opel

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (AP) -- Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday welcomed GM's decision to sell its European unit Opel to Canadian auto parts maker Magna and Russia's Sberbank, hailing it as a chance for Russia to integrate into the European economy.

General Motors Co. announced on Thursday that it will see a 55 percent stake in Opel transferred to the Canadian-Russian team but will keep 35 percent for itself, with 10 percent held by workers.

"I hope that this is one of the steps that would lead us to the true integration into the European economy," Putin told a group of journalists and experts at his residence outside Moscow.

Opel had been placed in a trust with Germany holding 65 percent and GM 35 percent to keep it from being drawn into GM's restructuring under bankruptcy protection in the U.S. The deal still depends on conditions that could take weeks or months to work out.

GM had reportedly hesitated about selling Opel to Magna and Sberbank, fearing that Opel technology could fall into the hands of Russian automaker GAZ, which state-owned Sberbank has described as its technology partner.

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