Steinbrück: Berlin will consider aid for Opel

Steinbrück: Berlin will consider aid for Opel
Photo: DPA
German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück said on Thursday the government would not rule out state aid for Opel, the German unit of troubled US carmaker General Motors.

“We’re ready to talk because it’s about the future of 26,000 Opel employees and at least that many at the suppliers,” he told the daily paper Ruhr Nachrichten.

He said there was the possibility of government guarantees, but that Berlin must do all it could to avoid pumping taxpayer money directly into the carmaker.

And Germany’s new economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, told public broadcaster ZDF the company must first present a viable restructuring concept before the government could commit to any aid.

Opel employs around 26,000 German workers at plants in Rüsselsheim, Bochum, Eisenach und Kaiserslautern. The Bloomberg news agency on Wednesday had reported GM was considering closing factories in Bochum and Antwerp, Belgium while the plant in Eisenach in eastern Germany would be sold.

But Jürgen Rüttgers, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, confirmed on Wednesday night that General Motors currently had no plans to shut any plants belonging to Opel.

“A weight fell from my chest after we heard here at the headquarters from General Motors that there hasn’t been a decision to close any plants in Germany,” Rüttgers, who is in Detroit for talks with GM’s management, told ZDF.

He also said the Americans were now willing to discuss options for the storied German carmaker’s future “that half a year ago no one could imagine” and that Opel and GM would work out how best to restructure the company’s European options in the coming weeks.

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