March 29, 2012 / 7:54 AM / 6 years ago

GM's Opel denies mulls sale of Eisenach plant

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Loss-making General Motors (GM.N) unit Opel denied a newspaper report it was considering the sale of its Eisenach car plant in Germany, where it manufactures the Corsa subcompact and is due to begin building the Junior small car later this year.

Empoyees of General Motors' German unit Opel stand next to an Opel Corsa at the plant in the Eastern German town of Eisenach, May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

“This speculation is without base and is wrong. There are no plans to sell the Eisenach plant,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Earlier, German business daily Handelsblatt cited a person familiar with the situation as saying it was conceivable that an investor for the plant could be sought.

On Wednesday, Opel avoided conflict with the unions on its board, preferring to return to the negotiating table rather than ram through thousands of job cuts in Britain and Germany.

Opel cars are pictured at the Opel plant of Bochum in March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

One person who attended a supervisory board meeting on Wednesday told Reuters that chief executive Karl-Friedrich Stracke had submitted only a “very rough” plan that included a variety of options for consideration, and had not suggested closing specific plants.

Under a restructuring concept dubbed “Viability Plan 6” drafted during the post-Lehman crisis but never implemented, Opel management proposed the simultaneous closure of its Antwerp and Bochum plants and the sale of Eisenach.

The plant, located in eastern Germany, recently cut production by slashing working hours to as little as 30 per week from 38 until the summer, when pre-launch production slowly begins for the Junior small car.

Opel invested 190 million euros ($252 million) last year to expand the plant, the biggest investment since the plant began production 20 years ago, to increase the number of components built in-house.

($1 = 0.7525 euro)

Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Andrew Callus

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