Australian analysts are debating the future of GM Holden Ltd. when the slimmed-down parent General Motors Corp. restructures, a process widely expected to begin in earnest with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing June 1.

The Melbourne Age newspaper quotes a GM Holden spokesman as saying the subsidiary will not be sold because GM regards its Australian operation as a viable, valuable and important part of its global picture.

But Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ Bank) senior economist Julie Toth tells the newspaper she disagrees.

“I expect if and when General Motors in the U.S. goes bust, its overseas subsidiaries will be sold, including in Australia,” she says. “Watching the circus erupting over GM in Europe doesn’t augur well for Holden Australia.”

GM Holden employs about 6,500 people.

Toth says the narrow choices of possible suitors for the Australian icon may present more problems for GM Holden.

“The Australian government’s reaction will depend on the suite of potential bidders,” she says. “It seems a gross shortage of potential buyers will be a huge problem for GM worldwide, regardless of the viability of each individual business unit.”

But IBIS World Pty. Ltd. industry analyst Sarah-Jane Derby, perhaps ignoring the pending demise of GM’s iconic Pontiac brand, tells the newspaper GM Holden’s legacy in the minds of the Australian consumer makes her confident of the Australian company’s future.

“We don’t think Holden will go broke, because Holden is an Australian icon,” she says. “We don’t think the Australian public will let it go broke.”

GM Holden, unlike many of GM’s global holdings, has the ability to build a car from scratch, taking it from design, testing, prototype development and production to marketing.

The Age also cites Houston-based Plunkett Research Ltd. CEO Jack Plunkett, who predicts GM will downsize very quickly.

“My forecast is that they are very likely to sell or close most non North-American businesses, with the exception of China,” he is quoted as saying.

“This is not to belittle the importance of Australia as a market, or to belittle the importance of a strong and positive relationship between business interests in the U.S. and Australia,” Plunkett says. “The fact is GM must shrink to survive, while becoming much less complex and much less global in the process.”