Renewed speculation over likely Saab buyers

Renewed speculation over likely Saab buyers
Rumours are circulating in Trollhättan, the western Swedish home of Saab Automobile, about renewed interest from buyers looking to purchase the Swedish automaker. Talks are also continuing with a number of Chinese car companies.

“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.

“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.”

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