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Opel labor rep says SAIC should get Opel stake

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Opel's labor chief called for U.S. carmaker General Motors Co to offer shares in Opel to its joint venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) in a renewed push for more independence.

Opel, part of GM Europe, has long sought to free itself of the constraints imposed by GM, which aims to keep it as a regional brand.

"One proposal would be to give Opel shares to SAIC," Klaus Franz told Reuters, adding this move would allow GM to receive in return the 1 percent in the SAIC joint venture it is missing for a 50 percent stake.

"GM has never accepted that it owns 49 percent in the joint venture with SAIC and that the Chinese partners have 51 percent," Franz said.

The joint venture builds Chevy, Buick and Cadillac vehicles in China.

"It would be a win-win situation for all and it would be a good way for us to enter the Chinese market," Franz said.

Opel executives and workers have long argued that if the brand were not limited largely to Europe it could grow around the world, but GM has made clear its global aims are focused on it mainstream Chevy and luxury Cadillac brands.

After emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, GM dropped plans to sell Opel to Canada's Magna International Inc and launched a restructuring to get the unit, which lost $1.6 billion last year, back on track.

In June, however, reports surfaced that GM was again eyeing a sale, something GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson did not deny until late July. GM executives have said Opel's restructuring is on track and the business remains a key part of their global strategy.

(Reporting By Jan Schwartz; Writing by Nicola Leske; Editing by David Holmes)

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