- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Germany’s economy minister said late Monday that he believes General Motors is willing to do its part to ensure the survival of its Opel unit, a key automaker in Europe’s biggest economy.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is on a visit to the U.S. to meet financial officials from both the private sector and the government, spoke with General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner and Frederick Henderson, the chief financial officer.

Afterward, Guttenberg told reporters traveling with him that the GM executives had expressed a willingness to make concessions to keep Opel from crashing. Among other things, Guttenberg said GM’s leadership had suggested they could retain only a minority stake in Opel to help allay German concerns that bailout money from Berlin would be used to prop up the American parent company.

German leaders are worried that the crisis for American carmakers could bring down Adam Opel GmbH, GM’s beleaguered subsidiary.

Opel says it needs euro3.3 billion ($4.3 billion) to get through the economic crisis. It has sought help from the German government, but officials in Berlin insist that U.S. parent GM must first come forth with a restructuring proposal for the future.

“I think it is a day that has brought us at least a real step forward, at least when it concerns the will of the parent company,” Guttenberg said on Germany’s N-24 television after the meeting with GM leaders. “But the will alone is naturally not enough _ there has to also be something of substance delivered, and we can only hope for that.”

On Tuesday, Guttenberg is to hold talks with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and they are expected to discuss the Opel issue.

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