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GM blog lifts hood on power struggle over Opel

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cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpgIt’s not often you get to lift the hood and watch a power struggle going on in the engine room of General Motors. But the vice-president of GM Europe, John Smith, has just provided tantilising details of the arguments over the rival bids for Opel/Vauxhall, the main European arm of the fallen U.S. auto giant. Smith is the chief negotiator on the sale of Opel.

In a blog apparently intended to reassure Opel staff, but accessible to the public, he insisted GM had not specified a preferred bidder. But he made clear his own preference for the bid from Belgian financial investor RHJ International, which is loosely related to U.S. private equity fund Ripplewood, over the offer by Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna and its Kremlin-backed Russian partner Sberbank.

Smith’s post is entitled “Clearing the Air” and was ostensibly written to clarify GM’s intentions and dispel erroneous reports ascribed to interested parties. But his account shows just how poisonous the atmosphere appears to be between GM and Magna, and GM and the German government, which backs Magna’s bid. It also suggests that the air is not too clear within GM’s top management either.

Specific to the Magna bid, which is clearly preferred by several politicians and the Labor Bench, the bid presented to GM varied from the negotiations we had in the previous weeks and contained elements around intellectual property and our Russian operations that simply could not be implemented…

Magna sweetens Opel bid, but not on GM concerns

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Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna has sweetened its offer for General Motors’ main European arm, Opel, by pledging more of its own capital up-front as it tries to burn off Belgium-based financial investor RHJ International, which has GM’s favour so far. But the improved bid doesn’t appear to address the U.S. auto maker’s main concerns about future control. 

According to a German government source, Magna is now offering to inject 350 million euros immediately, with another 150 million to be raised through a convertible bond. Magna had originally offered just 100 million of its own capital up-front with 400 million to be raised in bonds. That compares with RHJ’s offer of an initial 175 million euros, plus another 100 million at the end of 2012.

GM dumps Chinese in Opel race, standoff looms

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Two things Opel junkies need to know in today’s news.

1) General Motors has dumped Chinese state-owned carmaker BAIC’s long-shot bid to take over GM’s main European arm. That leaves a two-horse race between Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna and Belgium-based financial investor RHJ, loosely associated with U.S. private equity firm Ripplewood.

2) The two trustees appointed by the German authorities to a board overseeing Opel in its transition to new ownership are refusing to toe Berlin’s line that Magna’s bid is the only game in town (according to an intriguing Reuters sources story).

Politics, economics collide over Opel

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Political and economic logic are set to collide in the byzantine decision-making over the future of German carmaker Opel, the main European arm of fallen U.S. auto giant General Motors.
If politics prevail, as seems likely, the cost to German taxpayers will be higher and the chances of commercial success lower.

The aim of the Berlin government and four federal states, which are sustaining Opel with bridging finance, is to save as many German jobs and production sites as possible. That makes political sense ahead of September’s general election. But the business logic is that only a greatly slimmed-down Opel can survive in an industry with chronic overcapacity.
In theory, it is up to GM’s board to choose among the three offers it expected to receive on Monday from Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna <MGa.TO>, Belgian financial investor RHJ <RJHI.BR>, and, less plausibly, Chinese state-owned auto maker BAIC. But there are several other powerful players with a say. They include the trustees responsible for the company since GM entered U.S. bankruptcy in June, the German federal and state governments, Opel’s works council and, last but not least, the European Commission, which must approve the restructuring plan as a condition for authorising the state aid.

Bankruptcy-related M&A at 5-year high – more to come?

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This week’s Thomson Reuters Investment Banking Scorecard shows bankruptcy-related M&A at a five year high.

 

There were five bankruptcy-related M&A deals announced during the week, including the acquisition of venture-backed public company Nanogen by French investment holding company Financiere Elitech for $25.7 million. 

GM drives route 363, bondholders beware

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     The rough justice meted out to General Motors bondholders may have short-circuited the bankruptcy process, but it has damaged the confidence that holders of other debt can have in their right to fair treatment.
    There will be a long-term cost, both to borrowers and lenders as a result. Key to this has been the use — by both GM and Chrysler – of section 363 of Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. By invoking the “emergency” need to restructure the companies, this section has allowed the automakers to speed through the sale of the viable parts of the businesses to new companies and leave the debt behind.
    While route 363 by-passes lengthy court hearings, its use to sell prime assets drives straight through the spirit of the code, which was meant to allow companies going through a Chapter 11 to jettison non-core assets quickly as part of a longer and wider reorganisation. It was not designed to cream off the best ones.
    Lawyers are already invoking the Chrysler and GM examples to try and get round long-established rules for reorganisations.
    The result would be to deprive bond investors of their rights in a company restructuring.
    GM bondholders who would normally have enjoyed preferred credit status in a Chapter 11 were railroaded by the Obama administration into giving the quick-fire sale the go-ahead, on the grounds that this was a one-off.
    From GM’s point of view, the process has worked well, allowing the business to emerge only 40 days after filing for bankruptcy. The cost of the turnaround has been $50 billion in emergency government financing. The longer-term cost in the much bigger market for corporate debt may be far larger.

Dead stock rallying

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General Motors is about to exit bankruptcy, perhaps as soon as today, selling most of its assets to a “New GM,” with the U.S. government in the driver’s seat. The legal obstacles have all been cleared. There is no hope of the shares of the old GM being worth anything more than the paper they are printed on.

Today, the stock is rallying, up 14 percent in late morning trading. That trading, as it is for shares of other companies in bankruptcy, is on the pink sheets, which is a wild west frontier town for stock investors.

Opel keeps hope alive

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With General Motors in a Washington-guided bankruptcy and car makers around the world benefiting from government subsidies, politics has become firmly intertwined with the fate of the global auto industry. Even so, the deal reached in late May between General Motors and a group led by Magna International for GM’s European arm, Opel, smacked of trying too hard to come up with a politically convenient solution.

So the news that GM is now talking to other potential bidders is a welcome sign. Among the bidders are RHJ International, a publicly traded Belgian spinoff of the American private-equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, and Beijing Auto.

Chicken and Koenigsegg

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I received something of a flaming at the hands of some readers for making a few gentle digs at the presumptions of Koenigsegg – a tiny Swedish sports car maker that is trying to buy Saab from General Motors. In particular, I was chided for not having done my homework before pronouncing – the implication being that I was too lazy to uncover the vast host of facts lying around out there in the public domain that would reveal even to a total dunderhead the merits and sense of this transaction.

Well, it would certainly have made for a shorter post had I stuck to these “facts”.

Saab’s Phøenix moment?

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Koenigsegg's boy racerThe great global automobile restructuring is throwing up some fairly unlikely bidders for some famous marques. Who would have thought Magna (who?) would end up buying Germany’s mighty Adam Opel? And who would have seen Fiat as Chrysler’s white knight?

Although, come to think of it, there’s a certain tragic inevitability about the ghastly Hummer ending up in a death embrace with the Sichaun Tenzhong Heavy Industrial Machine Co.

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