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Germany

Magna meets with Guttenberg over possible Opel deal

Representatives from the Canadian-Austrian car parts supplier have presented Germany's Economics Minister with a draft plan for bailing out Opel. But the troubled carmaker remains a bone of contention.

Magna boss Frank Stronach

Magna boss Frank Stronach is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Austria

The tone was positive after the meeting between Magna executives and German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in Berlin.

Guttenberg said Magna had presenting "an interesting initial rough concept." But details of the plan, however sketchy, were not released.

The Canadian daily newspaper Globe and Mail has reported that Magna is interested in buying a 20 percent stake and possibly cooperating with Russian oligarch and former Magna shareholder Oleg Deripaska to acquire a controlling interested in the ailing automotive giant.

Italian carmaker Fiat has also expressed an interest in getting involved with Opel. However Guttenberg told reporters the two proposals were so different, it would not be possible for the two companies to work together.

Political sniping

Opel worker

Opel's jobs are sure to play a role in this year's German election

Kurt Beck, the state premier of Rhineland-Pfalz, where one of Opel's German plants is located, also welcomed the news of Magna's preliminary plans.

"We are convinced that this is a highly interesting offer," Beck told AP news agency, adding that he was confident a solution to Opel's problems would be found soon. "I think that we'll get there in June - indeed we have to."

But he also criticized Guttenberg for not fully informing German states where Opel plants are located about negotiations concerning the troubled carmaker.

"We're prepared to submit to an overarching solution, but it's not right to let someone wander around blindly," Beck said.

The German federal government has ruled out taking a direct stake in Opel, but has said it might guarantee loans for potential investors. Individual German states where Opel factories are located, and where jobs could be potentially lost, are likely to get involved in any bailout plan.

Guttenberg, for his part, said that no one candidate to take over Opel should be favored at this point and that the future of the carmaker should not be turned into a political issue in this election year.

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