GM's Opel board meet to consider revamp plan

The board of German carmaker Opel are meeting Friday to consider a rescue plan for the ailing General Motors (GM) offshoot.

This could lead to Opel breaking away from GM after 80 years as part of the US car giant's empire with the German Government saying Friday the battle for Opel and its European operations would be raised at a European Union (EU) leaders' summit set down for Sunday.

Thousands of Opel workers took to the streets across Europe Thursday to demonstrate to save their jobs after GM announced moves for a major shakeout in its international operations amid a deepening crisis in the global car industry, reproted dpa.

In addition to Germany, GM has operations in Britain, Spain and Sweden. However, GM's Swedish SAAB company has already filed for bankruptcy protection.

Opel hopes the business plan before its board will pave the way for Berlin to provide the struggling carmaker with about 3.3 billion euros (4.3 billion dollars) in government-backed loan guarantees to help it through the current downturn in the car market.

However, German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg warned Friday that the degree of integration between Opel and the Detroit-based GM made a push by Opel to part company with its troubled US parent very difficult.

Instead, the economics minister called on GM to produce a viable business plan for Opel, which has a corporate history dating back to the 19th century.

The fight to save Opel and the jobs of its 25,000 workers - nearly half GM's total European workforce - comes as Germany's political parties gear up for an election set down for September.

Adding to the pressures building on GM and Opel, GM announced in Detroit Thursday that it had run a 30.9-billion-dollar loss in 2008 after a daunting fourth-quarter loss of 9.6 billion dollars. Opel booked a pre-tax loss of 1.6 billion dollars (1.25 billion euros) last year.

This is the second time in the last five years that Opel has faced a major overhaul in its business with the company cutting 10,000 jobs in 2004 after GM launched another major overhaul of its global operations.

Now only a few months after Washington lent GM and rival Chrysler 17.4 billion dollars, GM is proposing another far-reaching restructuring plan, which includes big job cuts worldwide and could result in its hiving off parts of its international operations.

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