GM Europe Says It's Open To Partnerships

Automaker said it is prepared to discuss possible partnerships or outside investment for its Adam Opel GmbH arm if that helps secure the long-term success of its business.

BERLIN (AP) -- General Motors Europe said Wednesday it is prepared to discuss possible partnerships or outside investment for its Adam Opel GmbH arm if that helps secure the long-term success of its business.

However, GM appeared to be at odds with Sweden over another European unit, Saab, as the government in Stockholm rejected a plea for public funding and said it was up to the U.S. automaker to save the brand from bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, General Motors Corp. said in the U.S. that it would cut 47,000 jobs globally by the end of the year — 19 percent of its work force — with jobs outside the U.S. accounting for 26,000 of the reductions.

It was not immediately clear what exactly that would mean for GM's European operations, amid fears for the future of jobs and plants on the continent as the U.S. parent company seeks more government funding from Washington in its fight against bankruptcy.

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said on a Detroit radio show that the company is in talks with foreign governments, including Germany's, about how to continue funding overseas subsidiaries. He said that includes Opel, but added on WJR-AM radio that "nobody's approached us about buying Opel."

GM says it needs about $6 billion in support from the governments of Canada, Germany, Britain Sweden and Thailand to provide liquidity for its operations in those countries.

A joint statement from Zurich-based GM Europe, German-based unit Opel and employee representatives said that, if it makes sense for the "sustainable success" of GM Europe and Opel, management is "prepared to talk with third parties about partnerships and participations."

It said management and employee representatives would start immediately to discuss a restructuring process and address how layoffs and plant closures might be avoided.

"Both sides -- employees and management of GME and Opel -- are of the firm opinion that Opel, as the core brand of the European GM business with a successful model policy, has a good future," assuming financial issues can be resolved, the statement added.

GM Europe officials met with the German government in November to discuss possible loan guarantees, but no decision has yet been made. Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear Wednesday that it is up to the company to make the next move.

"A concept must be put on the table that shows what positive prospects for Opel could look like," Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

"At the moment, politicians can't do anything because the necessary concepts from Opel are not available," Merkel said. "And that can't happen without the parent company in Detroit."

Sweden's government, meanwhile, said it was up to Detroit to take the lead on money-losing Saab and rejected a plea for money. In its restructuring plan, GM said the luxury car unit could file for bankruptcy this month unless the government in Stockholm ponies up cash to help prepare the unit for sale.

"I'm deeply disappointed in General Motors," Industry Minister Maud Olofsson said. "They have in practice removed their hand from Saab. ... Instead they are handing over responsibility to Swedish taxpayers."

Olofsson said GM was seeking 5 billion kronor ($570 million), but noted that the Swedish government has already helped by offering credit guarantees, emergency loans and research funds to boost the Swedish auto industry.

GM negotiators "realize that every country is facing trouble when so many jobs are being threatened," Olofsson said. Then it's easy for them to hand over responsibility to different governments."

Opel employs approximately 25,000 workers in Germany, and also builds cars in Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Britain. It is the third-most popular brand in Germany, behind Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.

Saab has around 4,500 staff in more than 50 countries.

AP Business Writer Louise Nordstrom reported from Stockholm and AP Auto Writer Dan Strumpf contributed from Detroit.

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