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Fiat in talks about a takeover of GM's Opel unit

THE head of Italian car maker Fiat SpA, which is in the process of acquiring United States-based auto maker Chrysler, is continuing talks with German officials about a possible takeover of General Motors' Opel unit, according to media reports on Saturday.

Both the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and Focus magazine reported, citing unidentified sources, that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne expects to meet today with German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to present a concept for taking over Opel.

Both ministries would only confirm that the meetings were planned.

GM has been trying to find investors for its non-core and non-profitable assets as part of a restructuring in which it has sought billions of dollars in aid from the American government to avert its collapse.

Opel has said it needs 3.3 billion euros (US$4.3 billion) to get through the economic crisis, while the German government has said it doesn't foresee giving direct state aid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested that the government could help an Opel investor with loan guarantees.

Several suitors have been reportedly interested, with Italian Fiat and Canadian car parts maker Magna International Inc leading the way.

Last week, Magna presented Guttenberg with what the minister called a "rough concept for a commitment with Opel."

Guttenberg has said the German government would wait to determine its role in any full or partial Opel sale after the US government had also weighed in.

Fiat, meanwhile, has pressed ahead with its deal with Chrysler, which is in the midst of bankruptcy.


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