According to U.S. diplomatic cables that Wikileaks has obtained, General Motors Co. dropped a plan to sell its Vauxhall and Opel brands two years ago as the intended buyers were demanding the right to sell its plants to a Russian state-owned vehicle manufacturer, the Times reported on Monday.
The paper revealed that the Canadian-Russian consortium bidding for the European operations of GM made 31 amendments to the agreement after it was signed.
The consortium, which included Russian bank Sberbank and Canadian vehicle components maker Magna International Inc., inked a memorandum of understanding with the government of Germany to obtain a 55 percent Opel stake in May 2009.
The paper also said that while Berlin thought the terms have been agreed upon, the consortium kept adding "unacceptable" demands.
The paper also revealed that according to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, political consideration had entered into what’s supposed to be a “straightforward” business transaction. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy stated that the Chancellery “did not seem to understand” what has been agreed in the MOU.
The Times further cited GM insiders saying that one of the great concerns during that period was that Russian vehicle manufacturers could obtain access to the technology and patents of Opel. Times’ sources revealed that these worries, combined with the restructuring of GM and the recovery in vehicle markets, led the company to cancel the sale in November 2009.
Sberbank, Magna and GM were not available for comment immediately. During the early part of this month, Opel Chairman Nick Reilly stated that GM was "very satisfied" with Opel’s progress, but stopped short of commenting on whether the company had put its European unit up for sale.