Fiat still keen to buy Opel - paper

MILAN, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne is ready to buy General Motors' (GM) European subsidiary if GM's alliance with France's Peugeot

dissolves, Italian daily Il Sole-24 Ore reported, without citing sources.

Opel, GM's European arm, has been a huge drag on the U.S. company's performance, prompting analysts to call for its disposal.

"Marchionne's plan is to get Opel practically free, not unlike what happened with Chrysler and not unlike its offer for Opel in 2009," Friday's newspaper report said.

The Italian car maker acquired a stake in Chrysler in 2009 in exchange for its small-vehicle technology and management expertise.

Fiat on Friday declined to comment on the report.

Marchionne has said that the European auto industry needs to consolidate if it is to weather the market's five-year slump. "We have a collective responsibility in the industry to carry out a progressive restructuring at the European level," he said last month.

No offer has been made to GM, the newspaper said, adding that Fiat could make an offer for Opel only if GM and Peugeot were to dissolve their alliance.

However, GM is not for sale and it is committed to relaunching the brand, Opel's finance chief Michael Lohscheller told Reuters last month.

Fiat's losses in Europe are offset by profits from the U.S. market, where it controls Chrysler, giving it a huge cash pile that could be used for acquisitions.

(Reporting by Jennifer Clark; Editing by David Goodman)

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