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Magna's takeover of Opel moves closer as Spain gives go-ahead

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Magna's takeover of Opel moves closer as Spain gives go-ahead


OCTOBER 26, 2009 14:00 CET

UPDATED: OCT. 26 15:33 CET

BRUSSELS/ZARAGOZA, Spain (Reuters) -- Magna International Inc. on Monday moved closer to clinching its takeover of Opel with approval from Spanish plant workers as the clock ticks down to a Nov. 3 board meeting at which General Motors Co. is set to decide on the deal.

Spain's Opel workers voted to accept Magna's plans for the carmaker after tense negotiations with labor representatives.

Their decision clears away one of the last obstacles standing in the way of a deal from a European point of view.

GM's board of directors still needs to vote in favor of the deal. The board also has to allay European Union concerns over the politics of its choice of buyer for Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall.

The board is due to make a decision at a regularly scheduled board meeting on Nov. 3.

EU deadline

Spain's unions had reached an initial agreement with Magna last week after the Canadian parts manufacturer agreed to keep the Zaragoza plant in northern Spain, which makes the Corsa, and to reduce proposed job cuts.

"We decided to modify the plan Magna had for us," Ana Sanchez, one of the directors of CCOO, one of the plant's two biggest unions, told workers before the vote.

Also on Monday, Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank notified European Union antitrust regulators of their plan to buy a 55 percent stake in Opel.

The European Commission has set a Nov. 27 deadline for it to decide whether to approve the takeover.

The commission has been keeping a close eye on the transaction to ensure state aid is not misused for political purposes.

Magna had won approval from Berlin by proposing to keep all four Opel plants in Germany open. Germany is home to around half of Opel's 50,000 workers.

No new problems

A German economy ministry spokesman told reporters that Berlin was not aware of any problems that might stop the sale of Opel to Magna.

"There are no new problems," the spokesman said.

GM's 13-member board agreed to sell loss-making Opel in September, but EU regulators have asked GM to confirm it would make the same decision knowing that 4.5 billion euros in state aid promised by Germany would go to any buyer of Opel.


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