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Beijing Automotive eyes stake in Opel

A CHINESE auto maker has offered to buy a stake in General Motors unit Opel, challenging a deal from Canadian auto parts supplier Magna, sources said yesterday.

Beijing Automotive has submitted an indicative, non-binding offer for Germany's Opel and would make a binding offer by mid-July, sources said.

The news comes ahead of yesterday's deadline for GM lawyers to submit papers to US federal bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber, who will rule by July 10 on a plan to create a "new GM" with brands Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and truck unit GMC.

Magna, backed by Russian partners, is the frontrunner to buy Opel. Sources on Thursday said Magna's board wants to approve a business plan for Opel next Tuesday.

Belgian holding company RHJ International is the third bidder, although it posted a wider full-year loss on Wednesday and analysts doubt it has the cash to compete with its rival suitors.

Whoever wins the race for Opel faces a tough antitrust probe, a German government minister said yesterday.

When asked whether he counted on Brussels examining any deal for Opel under a lengthier, "phase II" investigation, German Deputy Economics Minister Jochen Homann said: "Yes, clearly."

He declined to specify what issues might concern EU competition authorities since the German government is still awaiting a business plan for the takeover, which he hoped to get by the end of this month.

Any business plans submitted will be evaluated by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of Berlin, since the government will have to offer more state aid after already extending Opel a six-month 1.5-billion-euro (US$2.1 billion) bridge loan that matures on November 30.


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