It was clear to many observers that the Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna was acting partly as a front company Trojan horse to help get Russian state interests deep into Germany’s industrial sector with the purchase of a majority stake in Opel from the bankrupt General Motors. Although it appeared to be a done deal at first (thanks to Sberbank and the Kremlin pressing their client party, the SPD, to push the sale through), now it appears that Opel is taking in other offers – apparently GM feels that Magna/Sberbank group are using heavy-handed political leverage to influence the terms. The outcome of this transaction will be very interesting in terms of illuminating Germany’s future political and business ties to Russia.
Magna, with which GM signed an MoU to buy 55 per cent of Opel alongside Russia’s Sberbank in May, remains in a leading position to sign a definitive sale agreement. The Canadian group has the support of the Social Democratic part of Germany’s government, regional governments and unions.
However, talks have hit obstacles over future access to GM’s global technology, which Magna wants to secure on behalf of its Russian partners. If the sale proceeds, Magna and Sberbank plan to build Opel-based cars in Russia with Gaz, Oleg Deripaska’s car company.
Some in GM feel Magna is using its political backing to press for unfair terms. GM also wants the future right to buy back some or all of the stake.