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Another bidder emerges for Opel

BELGIAN holding company RHJ International said yesterday it was in advanced talks to buy a majority stake in General Motors Corp's European unit Opel.

RHJ's statement confirms a second rival to leading Opel contender Magna International, a Canadian auto parts group which has said it wants to agree a preliminary deal for Opel with its United States parent this week.

RHJ waited until yesterday to confirm its interest in Opel because only now did it feel it was close enough to its goal to go public, a spokesman said.

"We felt we've reached advanced stages of negotiations, and we feel it is now appropriate to confirm these talks," RHJ's Arnaud Denis said.

While Magna has long been seen as the frontrunner for Opel, the German government - which agreed to supply 1.5 billion euros (US$2.09 billion) in bridge financing to Opel while a takeover was finalized - has said the race remains open.

RHJ plans just under 10,000 job cuts across Opel's European operations, one insider said.

German daily Bild am Sonntag reported that RHJ would require some 3.8 billion euros in government guarantees for Opel, less than the 4.5 billion euros Magna has said it needs.

Denis declined to give financial details of its offer, or to say what it would mean for jobs or plant closures in Opel's German plants, its Antwerp site or the United Kingdom arm of the German car maker, Vauxhall.

When its sale of a small stake in Egypt's Commercial International Bank is finalized by next Wednesday, Denis said RHJ would have about 438 million euros in cash.


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