When GM decided to hand 55% of Opel to Magna, you didn't think the Belgians were just going to have some waffles and call it quits, did you? Oh no. Belgium's prime minister made a call to the EU president about the deal, and the EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told a Belgian newspaper, "If something happens against the rules, I will take action."
The battle for Opel has added another front: Opel labor unions at two of the company's German factories retracted an agreement made last year to forgo vacation bonuses. The move demands that General Motors pay the laborers €70 million ($100.2M U.S.) by next week, the amount that they agreed to give up when GM was trying to rescue itself. Workers at two other Opel factories in Germany are expected to make the same move so
General Motors was meant to decide who would be the winning bidder for Opel last Friday. But it didn't. Instead, GM asked the German government for more information on federal financial assistance available to buyers. The German government would like Magna to take over Opel as it vowed to retain a huge chunk of jobs in Germany, but GM has given every indication of preferring Belgian investment fund RHJ.
Belgian investment firm RHJ, once considered a back-up bidder for Opel, is now considered a front-runner – at least according to its own CEO. RHJ head Leonhard Fischer has already told U.K. officials that the company is committed to retaining the Vauxhall name, and speaking to German newspaper Handelsblatt, he said he likes his chances in the run for Opel.
Over on General Motors' Europe "Driving Conversations" blog, VP John Smith has posted an update on the company's negotiations to sell a majority stake in Opel and Vauxhall. Although no final decision has been made yet, it's looking increasingly likely that the previous tentative agreement with Magna International may be usurped by a bid from RHJ International. This, despite the fact that the German government has been favoring the Magna bid because of the suppliers commitment to preserving jobs
There are five noteworthy parties involved in the negotiations over Opel's fate: GM, the German government, the Opel trust, states with Opel manufacturing plants, and the Opel labor union. The Opel trust is the body created to run Opel after GM's bankruptcy, and consists of five members: a chairman, a representative for the German states with Opel plants, a representative for the German government, and both the CFO and chief negotiator for GM Europe. Got all that?
One of the many clauses that General Motors is reportedly trying negotiate into any deal involving majority control of Opel is the option to eventually buy back the stake it is selling.
Even though Beijing Automotive (BAIC) tendered a non-binding offer for Opel, the company is said to have no chance of actually acquiring the brand. General Motors is still in talks with Magna and its partners, GAZ and Sberbank, and according to Sberbank CEO German Graf, "The choice has been made and the question now is of how to structure the deal."
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, watching the travails of GM, Opel and Magna from his comfy Italian perch, has sent word that his previous offer for Opel is still on the table if anyone is interested. That offer, though, can't be sweetened because he doesn't "believe we could improve Fiat's offer. It's the most rational one we can put forward from an industrial viewpoint."