The German government said yesterday it sees “encouraging” signs of progress in negotiations on the future of automaker Opel as it prepares for more talks with parent General Motors Co. and the two bidders.

The Economy Ministry said it expected another round of talks in Berlin today between German federal and state officials, GM and the bidders: A consortium of Canadian car-parts maker Magna International Inc. and Russian lender Sberbank; and Brussels-based investor RHJ International SA.

In the U.S., GM’s new board was expected to consider Opel’s future at a meeting starting later yesterday.

Germany’s impression the talks are well advanced “has been confirmed in the past few days — there were encouraging signals,” government spokesman Klaus Vater said.

“That means the government has a positive expectation as far as the talks that will happen this week,” are concerned, he added. He did not elaborate.

The government has made clear it prefers the bid from Magna and stressed GM needs to take its views into account in deciding on a buyer, because it is offering financial help to make a deal possible.

GM’s chief negotiator, John Smith, last week wrote that the U.S. company has not specified a preferred bidder.

However, he said the Magna bid, as submitted, “contained elements around intellectual property and our Russian operations that simply could not be implemented” and discussions were ongoing to resolve that.
RHJ’s bid “would represent a much simpler structure and would be easier to implement,” Smith wrote.