Road Shows

March 3, 2009

AUTOSHOW/At the Geneva auto show, General Motors is getting down to the business of convincing European governments to pump state funds into its Opel/Vauxhall arm. Europe has long been considered one of the more profitable corners of the globe for GM. The company is talking about closing three plants there and warning officials that there will be liquidity problems at Opel/Vauxhall early in the second quarter if they don’t pony up.

Leveraging similar tactics it used in the U.S., GM is telling European leaders that the aid it needs — whatever the final price tag — will cost less than an Opel/Vauxhall failure. This is an argument likely to find more traction in Geneva than it did in Washington, where socialism is not a word used in polite company.

Meanwhile, the great race for global funding is picking up speed. Toyota, the world’s biggest auto company, is looking for dollars to keep its loan business competitive in the shrinking global auto market. Ford is again reported to be shopping Volvo in China. At speeds like these, avoiding a huge smash-up before the next big turn would be a miracle.

Deals News:

* Air France-KLM will launch a tentative bid for Czech Airlines (CSA) within weeks as European carriers regroup in the face of a downturn that so far shows no signs of easing, its chief executive said.

* Royal Dutch Shell said it plans to accept BG Group’s improved offer for its stake in Australian coal seam gas firm Pure Energy in the absence of a higher bid, helping the British firm move closer to a takeover.

* Bespoke furniture maker Smallbone said it is considering a sale of the company as its shares were suspended pending clarification on its funding.

* China Life has withdrawn from bidding for the Asian unit of embattled U.S. insurer American International Group over worries about its quality, chairman of the Chinese insurer said.

* First Solar said it would pay rival OptiSolar $400 million in stock for its pipeline of solar projects, including a major installation for California utility PG&E Corp and other nascent deals that will rapidly expand the company’s presence in the U.S. utility market.

* BCE Inc, Canada’s biggest telecom company, is moving to vastly expand its retail presence by buying electronics chain The Source from Circuit City Stores Inc for an undisclosed sum.

* Danish insurer TrygVesta A/S said it would buy Swedish peer Moderna Forsakringar for 810 million Danish crowns ($137.1 million).

(PHOTO: A worker cleans a Insignia type car at the exhibition stand of General Motors Corp’s (GM) German unit Opel during a preview day of the 79th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 2, 2009. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

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