Opel Books Open To Three Parties

(Reuters) – Fiat (FIA.MI) and Magna (MGa.TO) as well as private equity firm RHJ (RHJI.BR) have had access to the books of General Motors German unit Opel, two people familiar with the situation told Reuters on Friday.

Fiat and Magna are expected to submit an offer on Wednesday, when a deadline set by German economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg runs out, according to the sources.

However, it was not clear whether Ripplewood’s European arm RHJ will decide to bid as well, the sources said.

Financial sources had told Reuters that RHJ had considered a bid for Opel but after exploratory talks both sides concluded there was little chance for success.

Italian carmaker Fiat wants a three-way merger with Chrysler [CBS.UL] and GM’s European operations. Austrian-Canadian car parts maker Magna is also interested in Opel, probably together with Russian investors.

A European financial investor may also be interested but has not yet had access to Opel’s books, the sources said, adding it was still up in the air whether a fourth party will make an offer as time was running out.

And Russia’s Sperbank (SBER03.MM) said it is studying an offer to take part in the bidding process. [ID:nLF973960]

Guttenberg said on Thursday Germany was discussing plans with U.S. partners about a trustee arrangement if parent GM were to file for bankruptcy before a deal had been reached on a partner for Opel.

The German government has made finding offers by investors a precondition for a trustee arrangement. (Reporting by Philipp Halstrick and Angelika Gruber; Editing by Rupert Winchester)