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UK: Govt says ready to discuss helping GM once it sees plans

  The government said on Tuesday it would discuss helping General Motors’ British unit Vauxhall once it saw the US automaker’s European restructuring plans.

“With regard to GM restructuring plans, we haven’t seen them yet so it’s a bit hard to comment,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s business ministry said. “When the plan is shared with us, we will be able to sit down with GM to discuss how we can best continue to help Vauxhall,” she said.

She said GM was welcome to apply for help under previously announced government schemes to guarantee up to £2.3 billion ($3.2 billion) of loans for the car industry.

GM is pursuing aid for its European businesses of Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in Britain, which, like other carmakers, are trying to cope with a sharp drop in demand as consumers retrench due to the sharp economic downturn.

GM’s European president, Carl-Pieter Forster, said on Tuesday he had received positive signals from the British government over aid for Vauxhall/Opel. GM has said it plans to spin off Opel and needs €3.3 billion in state aid to avert job cuts and site closures. Vauxhall would be part of the spun-off unit.

German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Tuesday Opel had not given the government enough information for Berlin to decide whether to rescue the company.

The government said it was “in regular contact” with GM and said authorities had already helped the company by providing money for training and a grant to secure manufacture of the new Astra model, due for production at the Ellesmere Port plant later this year.

European industry ministers are set to discuss the crisis in the automotive industry at a meeting in Brussels Thursday. (Reuters)