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Koenigsegg 'no wet dream' for Saab: expert

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Koenigsegg 'no wet dream' for Saab: expert
10:48 CEST+02:00
Despite the excitement generated by Thursday's news that Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg was set to buy Saab, a number of automotive journalists in Sweden remain sceptical.

“It sounds like a joke,” writes Aftonbladet's automotive reporter Robert Collin.

Collin admits that 36-year-old Christian von Koenigsegg, who in 1994 founded the company which makes about twenty €1 million ($1.4 million) deluxe sports cars a year, is a man of many talents.

However, the seasoned observer of the Swedish auto world doubts that the entrepreneur has the ability to take on the challenge of managing Saab.

“I don't think Saab will survive,” he continues.

Collin's comments come following a report by Sveriges Television (SVT) on Thursday that luxury sports car maker Koenigsegg will buy Saab Automobile from US giant General Motors with the backing of Norwegian investors.

The buyers have signed a letter of intention to buy Saab, SVT said on its website, citing anonymous sources and naming Koenigsegg, adding that the negotiations could last for months.

“We are getting close to a deal done, but there are some final steps to be taken,” a source close to the matter told AFP, but would not confirm the identity of the leading bidder.

Both Saab and its parent company GM declined comment on the report.

According to Lasse Svärd with Dagens Nyheter (DN), the marriage of Saab and Koenigsegg is a positive development for Saab, at least in the short-term, as it signals that things are finally moving forward for the troubled Swedish brand after months of uncertainty.

“Saab needs to quickly find some peace and quiet with a far-sighted owner that can supply the company with the resources to help it create new models,” he told DN.

But Svärd stopped short of embracing Koenigsegg as an ideal owner for Saab, which owes 9.7 billion kronor ($1.3 billion) to GM -- its largest individual creditor -- as well as 347 million kronor to the Swedish government. Other creditors are owed 647 million kronor.

“It's really a hard question to answer. Spontaneously, my answer is no, at least it's hard to see how it will all work,” he said when asked if the exclusive sportscar manufacturer was the right partner to give Saab the lift it needs.

Saab has not officially named its suitors but British daily The Financial Times had previously named Koenigsegg plus two other bidders, the US investment firms Renco and Merbanco.

Media reports had also said Italy's Fiat was keen on buying Saab, but observers say such a move is now unlikely because of Fiat's failure to acquire GM's other European brand Opel.

Opel and its sister marque, Vauxhall, share a lot of technology with Saab.

The Saab automaker sold 93,000 cars worldwide in 2008, according to its website.

Expressen's automotive reporter Jan-Erik Berggren was more direct in expressing his concerns about Koenigsegg's suitability for Saab, despite the professed excitement from Saab enthusiasts, who for months have expressed their keenness for a Saab- Koenigsegg tie-up on blogs and internet forums.

“For them, Koenigsegg is like a wet dream,” writes Berggren.

“But it's time for them to wake up.”

According to Berggren, it's “totally unrealistic” that a company with a turnover of around 100 million kronor per year ($13 million) could pull off a deal expected to be worth 5 to 10 billion kronor, no matter how much money the group of Norwegian investors rumoured to be behind the deal have in their pockets.

However, if the two companies can survive their first five or six years together, Berggren admitted that may be enough to prove the deal can succeed in the long-term as well.

Saab Automobile employs about 3,400 people in Sweden. Including suppliers, some 15,000 jobs in the country are believed to be at risk if the company were to disappear.

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