It not only takes money to close a deal, it takes money to get close to closing a deal. Sberbank, which was Magna's Russian partner in the bid for Opel, said it assembled 9,000 contract pages during the negotiations. Unless Russian corporate lawyers are that much cheaper than their American counterparts, the associated legal fees could probably be described by the word "heinous."
Finally, after what seems like an eternity of protracted negotiations, bickering and stalling tactics, General Motors has agreed to sell a majority stake in its European operations to Magna International and its Russian financial partner Sberbank. Under the terms of the deal, 55% of Opel and Vauxhall will be owned by Magna/Sberbank; The General will hold on to a 35% stake and employees of the two companies will hold the final 10 percent.
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.
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
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."
When it came to buying Opel, Fiat's Sergio Marchionne told GM and the German government: "If you have a better offer, take it." They both took Magna, along with its Russian partners Sberbank and GAZ, because that consortium offered a better competitive arrangement and fewer job cuts in Germany. The deal wasn't slated to be finished until September, but it's encountered a few pockets of serious turbulence.
Sometimes deals get made, and then the dealmakers have to employ some pretty creative tactics to get the terms to work. Magna's deal for Opel included taking €1.5 billion in short term loans from the German government, the string attached being that Magna had to guarantee German jobs.
If you tried telling us even as recently as a year ago that General Motors would be forced to sell its European assets and that a partnership between a Canadian parts supplier and a Russian bank would step up to take the stake, we'd have probably raised a few eyebrows. But such is the state of the General and the industry at large, with Magna and Sberbank looking poised to take a big chunk of Opel of GM's hands. The question everyone is asking, however, is what the Russian state bank wants with