4 May 2009

Fiat eyes German branch of GM

3:38 pm on 4 May 2009

Italian carmaker Fiat has confirmed for the first time that it is interested in a takeover of Opel - the German business of General Motors.

Fiat chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said Opel would be an "ideal partner" and that a takeover was an "extraordinary opportunity".

Fiat is already in the process of buying Chrysler - the company which is applying for Unitred States bankruptcy protection, the BBC reports.

General Motors faces potential bankruptcy in the US and has until 1 June to restructure.

Opel has said it needs 3.3 billion euros to get through the economic crisis, but the German government has encouraged it to find an investor. It has said it does not intend offering Opel a bailout, but that it would offer investors state support.

Mr de Montezemolo told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that a Fiat takeover of Opel would create "a very strong group".

Fiat group chief executive Sergio Marchionne will meet the German economy and foreign ministers on Monday to assess the viability of a deal, Fiat said.

Meanwhile, Canadian car parts maker Magna International has also put forward what the German government has called a "rough concept for a commitment with Opel".

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said that any investor would have to present a plan that kept Opel plants open in order to secure government support.

Last week General Motors said it was to cut 21,000 US jobs in 2009 and phase out its Pontiac brand, as it aims to meet the deadline set by the US government to overhaul its business and show that it is viable.

It must complete its restructuring by then to gain the government loans it needs to avoid bankruptcy protection.

Like US rivals Ford and Chrysler, General Motors has seen sales fall sharply in its core home market in recent years - a decline that has intensified as the recession has continued.

Fiat Group Automobiles includes the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari brands.