Fiat chief in last ditch attempt for Opel deal

BERLIN: Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne jetted back to Germany on Tuesday for an eleventh-hour attempt to win over a sceptical Chancellor Angela Merkel to his bid for General Motors' Opel unit.

With indications that both the German government and GM itself prefer a Russian-backed bid from Canadian auto parts giant Magna, Marchionne was due to meet Merkel and Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg late morning.

The final decision on which of the three bids -- a third is from Brussels-based RHJ, backed by US private equity firm Ripplewood -- for a stake in GM's European operations will win out lies with GM and the US government.

But Germany, where GM has most of its European factories and employees, is prepared to offer billions of euros (dollars) in loan guarantees. GM also owns Vauxhall in Britain and Saab in Sweden.

GM is working against a June 1 deadline to convince the US Treasury that it can achieve long-term viability. Failing that, it will be forced to follow fellow US auto giant Chrysler into bankruptcy protection.

Zu Guttenberg over the weekend raised the possibility of letting Opel file for insolvency as well.

After his talks with Merkel and zu Guttenberg, Marchionne was due to meet with Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is also foreign minister and Merkel's main challenger in general elections on September 27.