EU Sets Deadline To Review Magna-Opel Deal

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union regulators on Monday set a Nov. 27 deadline to examine whether Magna and Sberbank's takeover of General Motors Co.'s European unit Adam Opel GmbH could cause competition problems.

Canadian car parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank were chosen last month as the favored buyers for a majority stake in Opel and Vauxhall, over a bid from Brussels-based private equity firm RHJ International.

The EU usually sets an initial deadline of 25 working days to investigate large takeover deals. This can be extended into a fuller probe if regulators identify antitrust problems or receive complaints from rivals.

Any merger investigation would be separate from any EU examination of German government subsidies to Opel. Germany hasn't yet formally asked for EU approval to give euro4.5 billion ($6.8 billion) to Opel's new buyers.

Germany openly favored the Magna-led consortium to buy the troubled car maker, which is a major employer in the country. Opel and sister brand Vauxhall have some 49,000 workers in Europe -- about half of them in Germany.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has voiced concerns that Germany may only have offered the aid if GM chose to sell Opel to Magna and Sberbank. Under EU pressure, Germany then wrote to GM to make it clear that the money would be available to others.

GM's board is due to meet Nov. 3 to weigh up the new situation -- which could potentially allow it to choose other options, such as keeping Opel or selling it to another bidder.

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