PARIS/LONDON – The chief executive of Peugeot manufacturer PSA Group will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss his firm's planned acquisition of General Motors' Opel and Vauxhall operations, a government spokesman said on Saturday.
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Both Britain and Germany fear PSA will cut jobs if the takeover goes ahead, and British politicians are particularly concerned that the country's looming departure from the European Union does not damage its resurgent auto industry.
Earlier on Saturday the Financial Times reported that British business minister Greg Clark had offered PSA similar guarantees on EU access and supply chains to those he gave to Japan's Nissan <7201.T> last year.
But PSA subsequently said it now wanted to hold talks at the highest level of British government, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that she would do all she could to keep jobs in Germany.
"(PSA Group CEO) Carlos Tavares has asked to meet Theresa May," the spokesman told Reuters. "It's the same approach that we've taken with the German authorities."
A spokesman for May later confirmed that a meeting would go ahead, and the business ministry said it was likely to take place next week, with Clark attending as well.
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PSA, Europe's second-biggest carmaker and owner of the Peugeot, Citroen and DS brands, also plans to have direct talks with union representatives in Germany and Britain on the deal, the group's spokesman said.
Talks on a sale of GM's European arm to PSA were confirmed by both companies on Tuesday. Germany accounts for half of GM Europe's 38,000 staff, while there are 4,500 in Britain where the company operates under the Vauxhall brand.
Two sources close to PSA said on Thursday that job and plant cuts were part of the tie-up talks, with the two Vauxhall sites in Britain in the front line.
Clark went to Paris on Thursday evening to meet PSA, who he said had "stressed that they valued highly the enduring strength of the Vauxhall brand, underpinned by its committed workforce."
"While discussions are still on-going, they made clear to me that in any deal these were strengths they would wish to build on," he added in a short statement on Friday.
The FT reported on Saturday, citing a person with knowledge of the meeting, that Clark had also made commitments similar to those he gave Nissan <7201.T> last year before it announced it would build two new models in Britain.
Clark promised Nissan that he would ensure more car part suppliers were based in Britain, support training and research into electric and low-emission vehicles, and push for "free and unencumbered" access to European Union markets for carmakers after Britain leaves the EU.
Britain's business ministry declined to comment on whether Clark had made similar commitments to PSA.
(Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, editing by John Stonestreet and Adrian Croft)