Commentaries

Push comes to shove in EU-Dutch bank spat

By Paul Taylor
September 18, 2009

EU-INTEL/Push is coming to shove in a stand-off between the European Commission and the Dutch government over the future of state-rescued banks. The outcome has implications for the whole of Europe.

German Opel aid tests EU rules

By Paul Taylor
September 15, 2009

opel-logosThe credibility of the European Union’s single market and state aid rules is at stake over Germany’s selective offer of taxpayers’ money to preserve Opel factories and jobs on its soil.

Steinmeier’s recipe deceptively seductive

By Paul Taylor
September 14, 2009

merkel-steinmeierIt was about as scintillating as a discussion among accountants, but Social Democratic challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier outshone conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s only general election television debate.

Germany wants GM answer on Opel

September 4, 2009

OPEL-RHJ/Germany’s Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is boldly telling the German public that he expects a “fundamental decision” from the board of General Motors on the future of Opel next week.

Trichet points to possible double-dip recession in Europe

By Paul Taylor
September 3, 2009

In his cautious Franglais central-bank speak, Jean-Claude Trichet has pointed to the strong possibility that the euro zone may face a double-dip or W-shaped recession.

Hapag-Lloyd unity needed to nail loans

September 3, 2009

GERMANYGermany showed with retailer Arcandor that the government won’t write blank cheques. This lesson is not being lost on the owners of Hapag-Lloyd who are seeking 1.2 billion euros in state loan guarantees for the German container shipping firm.

Germany should call GM’s bluff

August 25, 2009

Recently bankrupted companies seeking billions in taxpayer handouts do not generally have the strongest hand at the negotiating table. Yet General Motors seems determined to drive a hard bargain over the bailout of Opel, its European car arm.

Schaeffler/Conti feud puts Schroeder back on stage

By Paul Taylor
August 10, 2009

schroeder1Gerhard Schroeder is back at centre-stage, seven weeks before Germany’s general election. A corporate feud between industrial holding group Schaeffler and car parts maker Continental AG has given the former chancellor the chance for a comeback as the workers’ champion, although he no longer holds public office.

GM negotiator slams Opel bidder’s Russian connection

By Paul Taylor
August 6, 2009

The GM blogger is at it again. John Smith, General Motors’ group vice-president and chief negotiator for the sale of its stake in Opel/Vauxhall, lays into the bid by Canadian-Austrian car parts maker Magna – especially the Russian Connection – in his latest update on the state of the talks.

GM and Germany in Opel chicken run

August 5, 2009

USA   By Alexander Smith and Paul Taylor

General Motors and the German government are playing out the Chicken Run scene from the 1950s James Dean classic film “Rebel Without a Cause”.
    Neither has leapt from their car yet, but there are growing signals from Germany that GM has its hand on the door handle and is preparing to drop its preference for financial investor RHJ in favour of handing control of Opel to Canadian auto parts maker Magna.
    GM has so far been in no hurry — although the U.S. car group has been doing its best to keep up appearances with a statement following this week’s board meeting saying it hoped to make a recommendation to the Opel Trust Board “shortly”. But German pressure has been rising as a Sept. 27 general election approaches.
    Germany’s eagerness to seal a deal with Magna — which has teamed up with Russian bidding partner Sberbank and automaker GAZ — is palpable.
    Berlin is ready to get its cheque book out to provide state aid for a deal with Magna. But has made clear this would be reconsidered if GM opted for Belgian-based RHJ, which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government fears would cut more jobs. RHJ would be an unpopular choice in Germany, where a leading politician famously branded private equity buyers “locusts”.
    Berlin wants a deal closed in September and has set up an Opel Task Force to oil the wheels. Yet Opel workers are concerned that GM has been playing for time so that a decision is delayed until after the election.
    They fear that stalling until after polling day would make it easier for GM to put Opel through insolvency proceedings and shed some of its factories and staff at a lower cost.
    For Merkel, a deal on Opel’s future now would deprive her Social Democratic junior partners and rivals, who back Magna, of a potentially damaging campaign issue (“Merkel dithers while Opel burns”). But while it may yield short-term benefits, Berlin’s rush to hand Opel to Magna could yet backfire.
    GM’s chief negotiator John Smith has been vocal in his criticism of Magna’s bid, specifically citing concerns about the use of GM patents and Russian expansion plans.
    Magna’s Kremlin-backed partners operate in an opaque business environment where foreign players can suddenly lose control of a joint venture or face tax or regulatory obstacles.
    It may well be GM that blinks in the run-in with Berlin over Opel, but Merkel shouldn’t forget that whoever bails out first, the Chicken Run inevitably ends in a car wreck.