German government demands guarantees from Opel investors

German government demands guarantees from Opel investorsBerlin - The German government has demanded that potential Opel investors preserve jobs and factories in Germany, the German daily Bild reported. "Every investor must strengthen Germany," Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said in an interview to be published Sunday. "Anyone who wants to close plants and cut jobs is not a suitable Opel partner," Tiefensee added.

Italian carmaker Fiat and Austrian-Canadian auto components manufacturer Magna are both in talks with the German government over a possible majority stake in the ailing General Motors (GM) offshoot.

Opel's works council is fearful that a Fiat takeover would lead to job cuts and factory closures, believing the Italian company would be bound to scrap meagre-selling Opel models which were in direct competition to the Italian products.

The State Premier of Hesse, where Opel is based, has also voiced concern over the Italian takeover bid. "Fiat has similar problems to Opel and will also need to reduce capacities to survive," Roland Koch told daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

Koch said Magna was a far more appealing partner, as there were "many overlaps in knowledge and ability, but none in the daily market activity."

German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg dismissed worries over the Italian bid.

"The premature criticism weakens the German negotiation position," Guttenberg said, warning against an instinctive rejection of the proposals.

"We will also check Fiat's concept very closely to see how many sites and jobs can be retained in Germany," the economics minister told German Spiegel news magazine.

Guttenberg, who has reportedly held initial talks with Fiat, is to meet Magna early next week to discuss its bailout proposals for Opel, his ministry confirmed Saturday.

"Magna is potentially an interesting partner," Guttenberg told German Spiegel news magazine, adding that their proposals would also be closely scrutinised.

"Of course we will seriously check any involvement," Guttenberg said.

Tiefensee said all options must be considered to preserve jobs. "A state involvement for a closely limited period may be necessary as a solution of last resort," Tiefensee said.

The minister, who is responsible for investment in Germany's impoverished east said, "The state must do everything that is sensible and saves sustainable jobs."

Meanwhile, Opel is still waiting for a decision on patents which GM mortgaged to the US government as security in return for loans.

Restitution to Opel of these securities, worth around three billion dollars (2.27 billion euros), is seen as an important step in disentangling the German manufacturer from its stricken US parent company. (dpa)