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Report: Abu Dhabi's royal family interested in Opel investment

A German press report Monday claims Abu Dhabi's royal family may be set to invest in the troubled German automaker Opel. However, Opel sources scotched the rumor that the Arab state was interested in the ailing company.

An old Opel car rots on a scrapyard

While some see Opel heading to the scrapyard, others see an opportunity

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper quoted family member Sheikh Hamdan indirectly as saying that "no decision has been taken yet."

Sheikh Hamdan said that a meeting he had had last week with German regional premier Juergen Ruettgers of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to an Opel plant, was nonetheless "very positive."

Opel, a unit of distressed US giant General Motors (GM), is looking for private investors to supplement aid sought from the government, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated she would like to share the burden with others too.

Abu Dhabi said late last month it would take a 9.1-percent stake in Daimler, the German owner of Mercedes Benz autos and the world's leading truck maker, for 1.95 billion euros ($2.64 billion), becoming its biggest shareholder.

Klaus Franz, who heads the Opel labor representation council, told the DPA press agency over the weekend that there were "a whole lot of interested investors" from around the globe, but declined to name any.

However, he rejected as "unlikely" the WAZ report that Abu Dhabi was putting out political feelers for a stake.

German ministers reluctant on rescue deal

Also over the weekend, Focus magazine reported that German officials were becoming increasingly reluctant to arrange a separate rescue deal for the German GM subsidiary after concluding that it has no assets.

At the same time, both German labor leaders and the chief executive of GM Europe insisted serious talks were still being pursued to bring in an outside investor.

Opel and GM logos

GM insists an investor was still being sought for Opel

Focus quoted an unnamed German minister saying Opel's patents, plants and real estate had already been mortgaged to the US government and US banks as security for loans, and could thus not be acquired by a new investor.

"Opel is just an empty shell," the minister was quoted as saying. "GM no longer has any authority over the assets."

He added that separating Opel from the rest of GM would be far more complicated and costly than anyone had previously believed.

A new investor would have to negotiate the takeover with the US government and the banks.

Der Spiegel magazine quoted GM Europe chief Carl-Peter Forster saying potential private-equity and sovereign-capital investors remained interested in buying into the European unit.

He told Spiegel that even if the GM parent company declared insolvency, production and sale of Opel and Vauxhall cars in Europe would continue as normal.

In a related development, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said there might be a "crisis of confidence in democracy" if efforts to put Opel back on its feet fail. He accused supporters of Chancellor Angela Merkel of "doing nothing."

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