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GM Europe Head Resigns Over Opel Sale Decision

Carl-Peter Forster, GM group vp and president of Opel leaves.

by on Nov.06, 2009

 Aufedersein Carl Peter.

Auf wiedersehen Carl-Peter Forster as the Opel/Vauxhaul survival saga continues.

Carl-Peter Forster will be leaving his role as head of European operations and “will advise” the company during the transition to find a new CEO, it was announced by GM today.

Insiders say Forster was taken by surprise by the sudden reversal on Monday by the GM Board of Directors to reject a sale of Opel/Vauxhall to Canadian auto supplier Magna and Sberbank, a large Russian financial institution.

Forster had been a vocal supporter of the sale, as had been German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German Metal Workers union. The Magna sale was thought to protect more jobs and plants in Germany, while imposing greater burdens on Opel/Vauxhall operations elsewhere in Europe, than a competing bid from a Belgium based investment group.

It was not immediately clear if  Forster was pushed out or he left in a dispute over how many jobs and plants would be closed in an impending revised Opel reorganization, which will be undertaken by GM alone, if government and labor union approvals are forthcoming. Perhaps, Forster pushed the Board too hard to accept a German favored solution.

GM claimed that no other management changes to the Opel Europe organization are being considered at this time, and that all key management roles remain while the search for a CEO for  Opel Europe commences.

GM insiders say it needs to cut at least 30% in structural costs, eliminate 10,000 jobs and close one or more plants for Opel to be viable. The cost of the restructuring is estimated at €3 billion, or $4.5 billion.

Forster will be replaced temporarily by Nick Reilly, the British head of GM’s international operations.


Adam Opel Auction Nearing End of the Beginning

Magna and Russian bank submit new offer for majority control. General Motors is now considering at least three offers.

by on Jul.21, 2009


General Motors is pushing for assurances that it has a major voice in future product decisions.

Magna International Inc. and Savings Bank of the Russian Federation (“Sberbank”) have just confirmed that they have jointly submitted a revised offer to acquire a 55% interest in Adam Opel GmbH and Vauxhall that is “intended to assure the long-term viability of Opel.”

Under the offer, they will purchase 55% interest in Opel, which would be owned by a 50:50 Magna/Sberbank Consortium. This trims the size of the Russian holdings from 35% in the previous offer. General Motors Company would have a 35% interest, and Opel employees get 10% as part of a new labor agreement.

GM is said to be seeking a way to regain controlling interest in the future since Opel engineering is crucial to its ongoing product development needs. CEO Fritz Henderson said in June that he anticipated GM will maintain a substantial, but still minority stake in Opel.

At the very least GM is pushing for assurances that it has a major voice in future product decisions, but the company is not commenting on further details of the offers. Increasing the holdings of Magna, with which GM has extensive and long standing business dealings, might be one way to assuage GM’s fears.


Merkel Mute on Opel’s Suitors after late Meeting

At midnight no word from German government on aid or sale.

by on May.27, 2009

Angela Merkel chats with Opel employees

A GM or Opel failure means the lights go out all over Europe. Potentially, 300,000 jobs could go.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met this evening at the Chancellery with German and U.S. government officials, representatives from General Motors Europe and Opel’s potential buyers. Bidders for the cash starved Opel brand include Fiat SpA, Canadian autoparts supplier Magna International Incorporated, U.S. financial firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC, and possibly Chinese carmaker Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation.

GM spokesperson Chris Preuss told TDB, “We’re hoping Merkel will be confident enough with the bids to give GM a bridge loan to help until we can negotiate the sale.”

GM desperately needs a €1.5 billion loan just to keep its European operations running during the next couple of weeks; and is attempting to sell off all or part of Opel to help its global restructuring. A GM bankruptcy is expected at any time now in the United States, and it is complicating its ability to save its overseas operations.  About half of GM Europe’s 50,000 employees work at Opel in Germany. Vauxhall has 5,000 employees at two plants in England.

In order to facilitate the sale and help secure government loans, Opel’s supervisory board has approved a GM Europe plan to place its European plants, sales operations, patents and other assets, debt-free under German-based Adam Opel GmbH, Preuss said. GM’s Saab unit, currently in receivership in Sweden, is not part of this restructured, but cash short, Adam Opel.

There are “major questions” with all of the bids, German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said today. And he would not rule out insolvency. In Europe, insolvency is similar to Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which is not a restructuring of debt, like the one Chrysler is going through under Chapter 11, but simply a sale of assets and liquidation.

Senior GM officials have previously told TDB that a European insolvency is fraught with complexity and the risk of survival is exceptionally high.

GM’s negotiating position without government cash to keep Opel afloat is, obviously, weaker. GM would prefer to keep the race open so it can play the bidders off of one another.    (more…)