Opel Watch: Who's on First?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
Want to handicap the bidding war for Opel (and German bailout money)? Then be careful in your choice of news sources.Germany’s mass-market tabloid BILD today declares that “RHJ is in the lead” for Opel. Magna has only “slim chances” to win. BILD‘s supposed sources are in Berlin’s Ministry of Economics.Also today, the Wall Street Journal writes: “Germany’s government sent a message to General Motors Co. on Wednesday: If GM sells its European car business to anyone other than Magna International Inc., then Germany might withdraw its offer of state aid.”Wie bitte? According to Reuters, Germany’s government has issues with BILD. “The report is wrong,” Jochen Homann, head of the government’s Opel Task Force, told Reuters. “A decision has not been taken in favor of one or the other bidder.”The WSJ may be closer to the truth. Homann ominously added that the €1.5 billion in bridge financing is not linked to one bidder. But “future government guarantees would have to be negotiated.”While Homan remained diplomatic, Roland Koch, premier of Opel’s home state Hesse, didn’t mince words: “The public guarantee negotiated with Magna does not automatically apply to the financial investor RHJ,” Koch said to Germany’s Handelsblatt. Yesterday, a speaker of Berlin’s government said that the total of €4.5 billion in aid has only be committed to Magna. “If another bidder is chosen, then the offered aid has to be reviewed.” So there goes the plan of GM to use RHJ as a strawman, collect government money, and then buy back Opel.Says the WSJ: “A newly confident GM, emerging faster than expected Friday from bankruptcy proceedings, is growing cool on Magna after failing for weeks to bridge differences with Magna over issues including access to GM technology and world markets. GM’s preliminary, nonbinding accord with Magna in late May was “a shotgun wedding” under political pressure from Germany, said one person close to GM.”GM doesn’t want Magna anymore, favors RHJ. To the RHJ bid, Berlin says: “you go ahead, but forget about the money.” Maybe they’ll split the baby and settle on China’s BAIC? Officially, they are still in the running. BAIC is “offering more cash and seeking less government aid than other bidders,” says the WSJ. But BAIC wants to truck Opel technology off to China.So who’s on first?Update: According to Der Spiegel, all states where Opel has plants shot down the RHJ offer. Kurt Beck, Premier of Rhineland-Palatinate: “Impertinence.” Jürgen Reinholz, Economic Minister of Thuringia: “Unacceptable.” All quiet at the eastern front: Nobody heard from BAIC.
Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Charly Charly on Jul 16, 2009

    Andy, if Opel is allowed to sell Opels in America than GM gets an extra competitor instantly. Opel doesn't need to recouper the R&D in cars they sell in America as they never plan to sell there so they can do it cheaper. Their forte is in selling cheap big (for Europe) cars. It is true that GM isn't strong in cars but this would hurt especially as GM's dealer network doesn't need training to service them.

  • Paris-dakar Paris-dakar on Jul 16, 2009

    This made me laugh: A newly confident GM, emerging faster than expected Friday from bankruptcy proceedings, is growing cool on Magna after failing for weeks to bridge differences with Magna over issues including access to GM technology and world markets. 'Newly confident'. GM is the industrial equivalent of a mouthy panhandler.

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