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Russian support has allowed Magna to rise above the rest

OUTBIDDING rivals Fiat, Brussels-based IHJ International and Beijing Automotive Industry Corp (BAIC) to secure the acquisition of Opel and Vauxhall was a coup for Magna&rsquo;s owner, Frank Stronach. It takes him back to his European roots, and gives the company the opportunity to milk the ever-expanding Russian car market.<br /><br />Stronach is an Austrian &eacute;migr&eacute; who came to Canada in 1954 with C$40 (&pound;22) in his pocket. He built up the car parts and assembly group, and today employs 74,350 people internationally. At the end of 2008, Magna had operations in 25 countries.<br /><br />Last year, Stronach &ndash; who has a net wealth of C$723m &ndash; announced he was sharing control of Magna with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The Russian ploughed $1.54bn into the car-maker to help expand his own Russian car business, OAO GAZ. <br /><br />But the deal to share Magna collapsed when Deripaska said he had been forced to concede his share of Magna to bankers.<br /><br />But Gaz, along with Russia&rsquo;s state-run Sberbank, backed Magna&rsquo;s bid for GM Europe. Stronarch has said it wants Opel to gain 20 per cent of the Russian market in the short term. In keeping with Magna&rsquo;s quirky &ldquo;employee charter&rdquo;, he said 10 per cent of the new company would go to Opel employees. In the quarter to the end of March, Magna made a loss of $200m.