PE Firms Show Interest in Opel

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds have shown interest in the European business of General Motors (GM.N), the US carmaker’s European head told a German magazine.

“We are speaking — for example — with interested parties from the private equity sector and with sovereign wealth funds,” Carl-Peter Forster told Der Spiegel in an interview published on Saturday.

He said there was interest in taking a stake in a new company that would combine all of GM’s European activities.

On Friday, a newspaper reported that the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) had discussed the possibility of Abu Dhabi taking a stake Opel.

NRW state premier Juergen Ruettgers had held initial discussions with a high-ranking member of the Gulf emirate’s royal family about a potential investment in Opel or other companies in the region, the paper reported citing a NRW government source.

NRW is one of the four federal states where Opel has plants in Germany.

GM Europe needs an outside investor to push through its restructuring plan, but so far no one has publically declared interest in Opel. The company has said there have been private expressions of interest, though.

Opel Chief Executive Hans Demant told Reuters last week he expected the company might find an investor in the financial industry as finding someone from the car industry would be very difficult in the current economic environment, he said.

Forster said in February that GM planned to split off its German arm Opel into a separate unit to be majority owned by its struggling U.S. parent and under the plan, outside investors would take a stake of more than a quarter.

(Reporting by Nicola Leske; Editing by Ron Askew)