U.S. government to leave Opel choice to GM – U.S. official

August 24, 2009

opel-rtr26yw0_comp WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) – The Obama administration will not use the U.S. majority-ownership stake in General Motors Corp. to influence the automaker’s choice of a buyer for its Opel operations in Europe, an administration official said on Monday. The official, asked whether the U.S. Treasury’s autos task force would weigh in on the issue or leave it up to GM’s management and board, said the administration was available to consult with the German government on the Opel issue, but would not get involved in GM’s decision.

The U.S. Treasury owns a 60 percent stake in GM, acquired by providing some $50 billion in taxpayer loans and bankruptcy financing to the automaker. As GM emerged from bankrupcty protection in July, leaders of the autos task force said they did not intend to be involved in “day-to-day” management decisions at GM.

Delays in GM’s choice of a buyer for Opel have caused consternation among government officials and union leaders in Germany, where the unit has a heavy concentration of production and engineering facilities.

On Friday, GM failed to reach a decision to sell Opel to either Canadian automotive firm Magna International — Gernmany’s preferred buyer — or to Brussels-based financial investor RHJ International.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her regret at the delay and said a decision was urgently needed for the 110-year-old carmaker’s future.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is leading the Social Democrat party’s efforts to oust Merkel in the September election, discussed the Opel issue with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday, his ministry said.

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