Saab has potential buyers: Sweden

Struggling car maker Saab has received interest from a number of potential buyers, the Swedish government said on Wednesday, refusing to divulge any names.

Saab is restructuring to become an independent unit after it was cut loose by its owner General Motors.

“Some of them have contacted the (enterprise) ministry and we have referred them to the administrator of the restructuring. So far so good,” Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson said Monday during a visit to Saab’s hub in the southwestern Swedish town of Trollhättan, news agency TT reports.

Olofsson did not disclose the names of the parties.

State Secretary Jöran Hägglund deemed the potential buyers as serious candidates.

“There are some interesting names,” he said, disclosing no details.

Meanwhile, Saab’s managing director Jan Åke Jonsson said the interested parties were “from the automobile industry and outside the industry,” both in Sweden and abroad.

GM warned last week that Saab would have to file for bankruptcy protection “as early as this month” unless it received help from the Swedish government, which flatly refused to step in and rescue the auto maker.

As a result, Saab last week applied for restructuring, a legal process run by a court-appointed administrator, in a bid to survive on its own.

Restructuring allows parts of Saab to survive and could enable suppliers, who would lose all the money owed them by the company if it filed for bankruptcy, to get some money back by agreeing to accept partial repayment.

Olofsson said on Monday the government had not “closed the door” on state loan guarantees for a Saab loan from the European Investment Bank, but said it would only step in as a guarantor if Saab found a new buyer.

Jonsson said that condition “complicated the process,” but remained confident the government would provide guarantees once a new owner was in place.

He said he believed a solution could be found “within three months.”

Germany car maker BMW, Renault of France as well as India’s Tata Motors have often been cited in the media as potential buyers for the iconic Swedish brand.

GM bought 50 percent of Saab in 1990 and acquired the rest 10 years later. But the Swedish company has registered chronic losses over the past 20 years.

The brand, once renowned for its cutting-edge technology and futuristic designs, has in recent years suffered from an aging product line and plunging sales.

In the fourth quarter last year, Saab’s sales nosedived 38 percent to just 17,900 cars.

For all of 2008, the Swedish automaker sold 93,300 vehicles down from 120,000 just three years earlier.

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