Opel insouciant over possible GM bankruptcy | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 13.04.2009
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Opel insouciant over possible GM bankruptcy

German carmaker Opel has said it isn't concerned about the possibility that its parent concern GM could soon file for bankruptcy.

GM and Opel logos side by side

Opel's parent GM is flirting with thoughts of bankruptcy, reports say

An Opel spokesman told dpa press agency that Opel wasn't worried about the effects of "a possible bankruptcy in terms of the measures taken up to now and business development."

The man was reacting to a New York Times newspaper report on Monday, which said US big-three carmaker GM may undergo what it called a "surgical" bankruptcy as early as June 1.

Carl-Peter Forster, the head of GM Europe, also said a possible bankruptcy at GM posed no danger to Opel. "Our production and the sale of cars in Europe won't be affected," he said.

And, the head of the works council at the Opel plant in Eisenach, Germany, Harald Lieske, added his voice to those assuring calm. Lieske told Germany's MDR radio station that, "Opel belongs to the healthy part of the company. We are of the opinion that legally, this so-called surgical bankruptcy will not have any direct impact on us."

Angela Merkel, left, Carl Peter Forster, right

Merkel, left, with GM Europe's Forster; the chancellor opposes state aid

On the contrary, some Opel officials voiced the opinion that Opel-Vauxhall would come out of the economic squeeze more independent and stronger than before.

According to the New York Times, the US government has ordered GM to file for bankruptcy by June 1. The idea is to effectuate a "surgical bankruptcy," which would divide GM's "good" assets from its unhealthy ones.

Muentefering says too many jobs at stake

The New York Times report was based on unnamed sources. But GM's new chief executive, Fritz Henderson, recently told the Canadian Broadcasting Company, "If we need to resort to bankruptcy, we have to do it quickly.”

In Berlin, a political battle is being waged over whether or not the state will step in and take a stake in Opel to help it through the tough times.

Franz Muentefering, chairman of the Social Democrat (SPD) party which shares power with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said the chancellor would have to consider taking a stake in Opel if other rescue efforts failed.

In an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Muentefering said there were 25,000 jobs at stake and the company was too important to simply let it fail if no investor was found.

Franz Muentefering portrait

Muentefering says the state may have to step in for Opel

"Frau Merkel will not be able to continue refusing state participation in Opel if that turns out to be the only way to rescue Opel," said Muentefering, who added that he and his party also would prefer a private investor taking a stake in Opel.

"There are too many jobs on the line," said Muentefering.

The SPD chairman also pointed out that leaders of four German states where Opel plants are based have also signalled that a government rescue cannot be ruled out.

They include three CDU state premiers - Roland Koch of Hesse, Juergen Ruettgers of North Rhine-Westphalia and Dieter Althaus of Thuringia - as well as SPD state premier Kurt Beck in Rhineland-Palatinate.

But Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Thomas de Maiziere, once again denied that the state would be taking over all or part of Opel. It is "important" that Opel find private investors, he told the Saechsische Zeitung newspaper.

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