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Volvo auction slowdown and RHJ's Barone

Anthony Barone must be pretty busy these days.

Barone is the veteran auto parts exec (Tower Automotive LLC and J.L. French Automotive Castings Inc. are among the names on his resume)  who leads automotive operations for RHJ International SA, the listed Belgium-based industrial holding company where Tim Collinwood of private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC is chairman of the investment and strategy committee.

A report in Friday's Wall Street Journal says that Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) is delaying  the auction of its Volvo AB unit until the contest for a majority stake in General Motors Co.'s (NYSE:GM) Adam Opel GmbH unit is resolved, expected in three or four weeks. The idea is that the runner-up for Opel -- either RHJ or Magna International Inc. (NYSE:MGA), which are the two finalists -- will want to compete with the Chinese companies that are currently the main contenders for Volvo.

In RHJ's case, this seems plausible. A handy guide to the firm's investment strategy -- part of an overview of the firm on its Web site -- says it seeks to target industries with "multiple investment opportunities" among companies needing operational improvement.

Automotive is nothing if not target-rich for an outfit like RHJ. Earlier this week the firm said it had lost the court battle for the powertrain business of bankrupt Metaldyne Corp. but may continue to pursue the unit.

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