The board of US carmaker General Motors has postponed making a decision on who should buy its Opel division, which includes Vauxhall in the UK.
An assessment on whether to start exclusive talks to buy German-based Opel had been expected at the weekend but the Detroit-based firm said “no decision was taken” when directors met on Friday to discuss the options.
The race to control Opel is between the Canadian component manufacturer Magna and Belgian financial group RHJ.
The German government has openly preferred the bid from Magna because it has publicly promised to cut fewer jobs in Germany, where 25,000 people are currently employed in the division and they have offered it bridging finance of 4.5bn euros ($6.4bn, £3.9bn). It is thought that the German government have added further conditions to that support and this may have proved a stumbling block to the GM board reaching a decision.
Germany’s economy minister said he regretted the failure to make a decision.
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was also quoted as telling the online edition of the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper that “there is still room for an agreement”.
UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has been critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for politicising the bidding contest ahead of federal elections in the country, at the end of September.
Earlier this week Lord Mandelson said GM needed to look for an “industrial outcome based on the long term viability” of Opel.
There is also speculation that GM, which only recently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a host of new US government-appointed board members, may prefer to exercise a buy-back option in the future.
That could see it re-acquiring Opel and Vauxhall within a few years at an advantageous price – an option which may be unpalatable to any potential buyers.
German media has also reported that GM may be also toying with the idea of placing Opel into insolvency, though that was played down on Saturday by a spokesman for the US company.