Opel 'should consider insolvency'

6 March 2009


German carmaker Opel should consider entering insolvency, the country's interior minister has said.

Modern insolvency law was "not set up for the destruction but for the preservation of economic assets", said Wolfgang Schaeuble.

The comments came as executives from Opel and its parent General Motors (GM) met government officials and promised more details on a restructuring plan.

Opel has calling for a cash injection from Germany to help its survival.

But Mr Schaeuble said that insolvency was a better option for Opel than relying on a state handout - and that such a move would not mean that it would have to go bust.

"The public perception is that insolvency is associated with going bust or bankruptcy," he said.

"But that is wrong. We must grasp that to survive such a crisis, modern insolvency rules are a better solution than the state taking a stake."

'No business plan'

Like most global carmakers, Opel is suffering from a slump in sales.

The company announced last week that it needed the money to avert plant closures and job losses among its 26,000 employees in Germany.

Media reports suggest that the German government was angry that the bail-out proposal - which asked for 3.3bn euros (£2.93bn; $4.16bn) - was simply a glossy 217-page brochure which read like an advertisement, rather than presenting any viable business plan.

Finance minister Peer Steinbrueck said the plan was "no basis" for the government to make a decision on whether to grant state aid.

However, after an hour of talks on Friday, which German economic minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said were "open, good and constructive", the government said it was ready to review proposals.

GM Europe's president, Carl-Peter Forster, who is also head of the Opel supervisory board, said GM and Opel would endeavour to supply all the information which the German government had requested.


German media have also reported MPs saying, off the record, that they were "shocked" to learn that Opel did not have any assets - with all factories being owned by GM in the US.

Separately, there is confusion about whether Opel owns the intellectual property (IP) information about its vehicles.

Deputy economic minister Dagmar Woehrl told parliament on Wednesday that GM had pledged the IP of Opel as security against capital injections it had received from the US government.

Trade union leader Armin Schild, who is on the board of Opel, said that both firms could use the IP without having to pay royalties.

But it has raised concerns that it could be sold on by GM.

GM Europe proposed last week that Opel should be partly separated from its parent company's US operations.

Such a move would require financing that GM is unable to provide.

The US carmaker, which was toppled by Toyota as the world's top-selling car firm earlier this year, is trying to wind down some of its European operations as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.