Beijing car maker keeps Saab options open

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC) is weighing up its options after the Koenigsegg Group, of which it was to become a minority owner, broke off negotiations for the acquisition of Saab.

Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg said on Tuesday it was abandoning plans to join forces with BAIC to buy Saab from its US parent General Motors due to costly delays, plunging Saab’s future into doubt.

“It has always been an important strategy of BAIC to go international,” BAIC said in a statement quoted by Chinese web portal

“Given the pullout of Koenigsegg, we will reassess this project in a prudent manner and make proper arrangements,” the statement said.

It gave no further indication of its plans, according to

BAIC referred AFP to the state press reports when contacted for a direct comment.

Analysts said BAIC might still proceed with the bid given the financial strength of Chinese auto makers and their desire to access foreign technology.

“There are chances that BAIC may continue the bidding using its own financial resources as long as it remains optimistic about the outlook of the Chinese auto market,” Xia Ping, an analyst with Core Pacific – Yamaichi, told AFP.

“An acquisition is still possible judging from BAIC’s own financial strength. It may also win some policy support on financing,” she added.

In the first six months of the year, BAIC reported a net profit of $370 million, up 78 percent from the same period last year, previous state media reports said.

By contrast, under GM’s stewardship, Saab rarely posted a profit and last year lost 3 billion kronor ($341 million).

But Xia said BAIC may need a foreign partner to clinch the Saab deal due to certain “policy restrictions abroad”.

Koenigsegg had needed a $600 million loan from the European Investment Bank and wanted the Swedish government to act as a guarantor, but the request was not acted on.

Koenigsegg announced its plan to acquire Saab in June, and the deal was originally expected to be concluded by the end of October but was repeatedly delayed.

BAIC, founded in 1958, is China’s fifth-largest automaker and already has joint ventures with Daimler and South Korea’s Hyundai.

It had also attempted to buy Opel, another European unit of GM, but announced in July that it failed to reach an agreement with the US company due to intellectual property rights concerns.

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Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.