‘Saab has potential buyers’: CEO

'Saab has potential buyers': CEO
Saab's chief executive has said there are a number of companies interested in buying the Swedish car maker after owner General Motors announced it was up for sale.

“There are many interested parties. I don’t want to mention any specific names but there are many (interested) companies that work with development and support car production, both in Europe and outside of Europe,” Jan-Åke Jonsson told Sveriges Radio.

“There are many different alternatives and I don’t want to go into specifics but it’s obvious the discussions we have had so far have been with companies within the automobile industry,” he added.

Jonsson’s comments came a day after GM said it would “review” the future of its Saab and Saturn brands as it struggles to survive and restructures its business to focus on core brands.

GM said it will “immediately undertake a global strategic review of the Saab brand,” in a statement outlining a restructuring plan it presented to Congress in hopes of securing some $18 billion in government-backed loans.

German BMW, Renault of France and Tata Motors of India are all reportedly potential buyers.

Another Swedish car maker, Volvo Cars, could also soon be looking for a buyer. Its cash-strapped owner US giant Ford announced on Monday that it was considering selling its last foreign premium marque, as it too seeks a massive bailout in US government-backed low-cost loans.

Sweden’s government reiterated on Wednesday that the state would not step in to take control of either Saab or Volvo, even temporarily.

“The state has no business owning car companies,” Enterprise and Energy Minister Maud Olofsson told reporters.

However, she stressed that her centre-right government was “working day and night to find a good solution” to the crisis in Sweden’s car industry, which comprises some 700 companies with 140,000 employees and accounts for 15 percent of exports.

Olofsson said she had “been in contact with the German government” to discuss GM’s situation. In addition to Saab, GM also owns German brand Opel and some models are built on the same platform.

“Saab and Opel are closely linked. We want to know what Germany is thinking,” Olofsson said.

She also reiterated her call for European efforts to speed up research and development of environmentally-friendly cars.

“I would most of all like to see a change in Europe to help the car industry. This would also be one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” she said.

The Scandinavian country has already agreed research and development subsidies of 450 million kronor ($55 million) annually for 2009-2012, up from 430 million kronor this year, and Olofsson said on Wednesday she was open to possible further increases.

She said further state measures to help the industry could be announced “shortly” now that GM and Ford had announced their intentions “but it isn’t certain we’ll have any answers before a couple of months.

“We will do everything we can to help these employees keep their jobs and to have a roadmap for these companies,” Olofsson said.