Berlin vows to protect jobs if Opel-PSA merger goes ahead

Berlin (AFP) - Berlin will intervene to protect German jobs and factories at carmaker Opel, government spokespeople said Wednesday, responding to news that France's PSA is in talks to buy the General Motors subsidiary.

"From our perspective, Opel is an innovative company with a long history in Germany. There are important sites here, in production as well as in research and development, whose future matters to us," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists at a regular press conference.

"It's a business decision that I won't judge here and now, but the government will draw its conclusions about this subject based on the discussions," he added.

A meeting between Merkel and PSA chief Carlos Tavares, suggested by the firm earlier Wednesday, is not currently on the conservative chancellor's agenda, Seibert said.

Merkel's office "has not received an official request," but wouldn't rule out a meeting either, he went on, adding that "we are currently in a phase when the specialist ministers are speaking with the parties involved".

Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries is due to speak with her French counterpart Michel Sapin about the potential deal on Wednesday, her spokeswoman told the press conference.

Zypries on Tuesday said it was "unacceptable" that PSA and Opel had not consulted German government officials, unions or the Opel works council before going ahead with merger talks.

A PSA spokesman told AFP Wednesday that Tavares hoped to launch a "social dialogue" with worker representatives in Germany, as well as meeting with Merkel.

Meanwhile, GM chief executive Mary Barra and president Dan Ammann flew to Germany Wednesday for talks in Ruesselsheim, Opel's headquarters near Frankfurt, an Opel spokesman told AFP.

Founded in 1862, Opel's lightning-bolt emblem has long been a familiar sight on German and European roads.

At the end of 2015, the firm reported 35,600 employees, including some 18,250 in Germany.

Opel has some 10 factories in Europe spread across six different countries.