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Renewed speculation over likely Saab buyers

TT/David Landes · 26 Nov 2009, 13:38

Published: 26 Nov 2009 13:38 GMT+01:00

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“We can’t comment on any specific expressions of interest, but it wouldn’t be strange if there are some who now express a renewed interest. There were a lot of potential buyers interested in the beginning of this process,” company spokesperson Gunilla Gustavs told the TT news agency.

When General Motors (GM) made it clear in February that Saab would have to survive on its own starting in 2010, around 30 bidders expressed an interest, ten of which were deemed worthy of further consideration.

After the Koenigsegg Group’s unexpected exit from the process, a number of names from the early stages of the sale process have emerged around the water coolers and cafés of an anxious Trollhättan, which stands to see its flagship company disappear if no buyer for Saab is found.

One such name is that of American banking group Merbanco. According to the Expressen newspaper, Merbanco CEO Christoffer Johnston has a plan for Saab already in place.

“Saab needs to build cars which buyers want and take care of its customers,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Johnston visited the Saab factory in Trollhättan over the summer and Merbanco was among the three prospective buyers which made it to the final round of consideration by the GM board.

In addition, Chinese automaker BAIC, which was set to become a partial owner of Saab under the terms of the scrapped Koenigsegg deal, is still interested in Saab, either as a partial or full owner.

“Both solutions are still possibilities,” Eddie Chen of Swedish investment promotion body Invest in Sweden Agency (ISA) told TT from his office in Beijing.

Chen spoke with BAIC CEO Wang Dazong following news of Koenigsegg’s withdrawal, and conversations have continued since then.

“We’ve discussed different alternatives, either that they take over completely or together with one or several others. My general impression is that they are still interested – but it’s still at an early stage,” said Chen.

“They’re open to all suggestions, then we’ll see what happens.”

Chen also confirmed that ISA has spoken with other Chinese automakers about Saab since Koenigsegg abandoned its plans to buy the troubled Swedish brand.

However, he refused to elaborate on what specific companies he’d contacted.

“I can’t say so much right now,” said Chen.

Soon the board of GM will meet once again to assess potential buyers and decide whether or not Saab will be shut down or sold.

Saab’s fate is likely to be near the top of the agenda when the board of the US automaker meets next Tuesday.

And according to Gustavs, Saab has been promised a decision about the next step for the company.

Story continues below…

“We don’t know how concrete it will be, but discussions should result in some sort of indication,” she told TT.

At the same time, the impending GM board meeting has prompted another meeting of the Saab Automobile leadership group in Trollhättan.

“The work involved with preparing a sale is quite substantial,” said Gustavs.

“Here we are, ready to push the button, but as of yet we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:16 November 26, 2009 by aaww
if there is a Chinese company that is still interested in buying SAAB, it must be a stupid company.

at this right moment, you can not expect to gain anything from purchasing this fallen swedish company.

brand name does not value that much; sales has fallen below 100,000 cars a year; market is limited to nordic countries; technology or patent mostly all owned by GM, which the new owner still need to fight with GM to get a authrized to use agreement.

what else can you gain from the aquisition? maybe the high cost Swedish labour?
15:23 November 26, 2009 by Hamish
bye bye Saab! you wont be missed
15:40 November 26, 2009 by spy

Don't count Saab out. Swedish labour costs are actually 30% cheaper than Germany for instance.

Potentially BAIC could move quickly as they already have sight of the deal as they were part of the Koenigsegg Group but the Chinese are renowned for moving slowly and ownership is less preferable.

Merbanco have a history of quick closing and they have experience in sorting troubled brands - Massey Ferguson for example. An exciting prospect.
15:56 November 26, 2009 by rumcajs
SAABs are not that bad... but their marketing dep. just doesn't seem to exist.

I'm sure that if you take a VW and a SAAB same age and mileage and drive both the same length of time, the SAAB will give you the same or less truble... but you'll impress your neibourg more in the VW. That simple.
16:28 November 26, 2009 by spy
Saab is more premium, certainly outside of Sweden.

And news from the EIB is that they can tranfer the loans to a new investor if they check out.
18:50 November 26, 2009 by EtoileBrilliant
@spy "Don't count Saab out. Swedish labour costs are actually 30% cheaper than Germany for instance." Are you sure? I heard that after employer's contribution they are actually 17% more than their Bavarian counterparts.

Also I was trying to find out where you saw that the EIB loan was assumable by another bidding group. There was no mention of it in the FT.
19:21 November 26, 2009 by spy

No Swedish labour costs are 30% cheaper than German and the loans quote is from Eva Srejber at the EIB. Very new info I think.

19:44 November 26, 2009 by EtoileBrilliant
SPY, I humbly defer to your knowledge on the subject. My infomation was anecdotal (somebody from a managment consultantancy told me at a dinner party last weekend)
20:00 November 26, 2009 by spy

Wasn't a German was he? :)
22:26 November 26, 2009 by karex

>>"what else can you gain from the acquisition...?"

1. Technology transfer

2. Service outlets

Service outlets - very important. More than one attempt has been made by Chinese automakers into getting their foot into the European market. Heck, that's one of the main reasons Ford bought Volvo in the first place, that and the fact that Volvo had a brand new platform newly-released which Ford didn't and could use on all of its other aging models.

Other Chinese automaker attempts to get their foot into the European market crashed and burned. Mostly because there were high sales the first year because of the cheaper prices, but consumers soon lost interest when they found out they were on their own after the purchase: virtually no customer support and no dealer/service networks to speak of. They were dead on the water.
22:48 November 26, 2009 by eltechno
I read about Saab's troubles with sadness. I owned a 1973 99 and an 1985 900. The last one I drove 296k miles (476k km) until 2006 when it died in a hailstorm. Both got me through some nasty drives through snowstorms, so I remember them both with deep affection.

When I bought my 99, it was easily the most innovative car on the market--front-wheel drive, 4-wheel disc brakes, fuel injection, folding back seat, etc. These days, everyone makes at least two of those. And better too. I confess I replaced my last Saab with a Lexus.

The ONLY way I can see Saab surviving is if they go back to building cars no one else is building. I blame GM, but I think Saab should have by now, a line of cars that use something other than gasoline for propulsion. As I see it, Saab has always existed to introduce the ideas that will eventually become common throughout the industry.

I see that Sweden has announced ambitious plans to wean itself from petroleum. If we intend to have cars after the Age of Petroleum, someone will have to engineer the replacements. Why not the folks from Trollhattan?
23:25 November 26, 2009 by 2394040
The answer is quite simple. There is one group that wants SAAB in the toilet. There is another group that wants SAAB to continue as a going concern. The group which marshalls the most cash will determine the outcome.

Having said that, I wouldn't trust the Chinese any farther than I could throw them. They are nothing but a front for the world economic elitists, who would love to continue building SAABs, charge the same (or higher) prices, and achieve that with cheap Chinese slave labor.
07:49 November 27, 2009 by Glempa
Saab are too small to survive on their own, and there are too many car manufacturers in the world. The cost of developing new cars is astronomical, and producing less than 100,000 cars a year will not cover these costs.

I see parallels with Rover in the UK, which produced similar number of cars, and I remember experts warning long before their closure, that they couldn't survive long in todays market. That market is a lot tougher now, and I am not convinced by a Chinese bidder. Their cars may be OK, but they are not as modern or advanced as European and Japanese cars, so they can not compete. I think Saab's best hope is hope GM change their mind like they did with Opel.

By the way, Saab have a good reputation in UK, but are considered expensive, whilst Rover was rarely in the top 10 best selling cars in UK.
09:38 November 27, 2009 by spy
Size is not an issue, let's face it the big companies haven't been doing too well lately. What is important is that GM don't cut Saab loose and that they give them time to move forward with another invester. I hope the Swedish governemt do their bit to help too.
22:43 November 28, 2009 by wenddiver
Install places to hide bombs, change the name to Jihadi special and the US Governmet will arrest the company and take it to Guantanomo bay as terrorists. Then you will get the attention of the Swedish government and they will send an entire team of Attorneys to bail out the company and not care how much they spend doing it. Scream Allah- Akbar, and get to it, you don't have much time, because the Swedish government isn't very fast..
13:13 November 29, 2009 by Rick Methven

I just found you bio to read follow this link

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