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Sweden hails month- long Saab reprieve

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Sweden hails month- long Saab reprieve
07:19 CET+01:00
Union and government representatives in Sweden welcomed the Tuesday announcement by General Motors (GM) that the company was exploring "expressions of interest" from potential buyers for Saab Automobile.

But concerns about Saab's possible demise remain.

GM said in a press release on Tuesday it had received interest from buyers and would evaluate the potential bids before the end of December.

"We naturally think it's a good thing that we have succeeded in convincing GM it should try out interested (buyers)," Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson told Swedish news agency TT, adding "we hope this will lead to a good end result."

Saab chief Jan-Åke Jonsson told TT GM's announcement was "the best decision one could hope for," shortly before flying home from Detroit, where a meeting had taken place between representatives from Saab, GM and the Swedish government.

"What we are going to do during December is evaluate the potential candidates we have," Jonsson said.

Swedish state secretary at the enterprise ministry Jöran Hägglund, who was also at the Detroit talks, told TT he was "very happy that Saab's board considered our standpoint" on Saab, and that it was good "GM gave a clear answer" on the nameplate's fate.

GM added, however, that it may wind down its Swedish unit if it fails to find a suitable buyer by the end of the year.

Neither Jonsson nor Hägglund would comment on the potential buyers, but both confirmed they knew who they were, according to TT.

Union representatives, who held an improvised press conference in Saab's hometown Trollhättan late Tuesday, were also delighted at the news.

"It was an important answer we received today. It shows GM is looking at future possibilities for Saab with a new owner," Annette Hellgren, the head of Saab's Unionen union, said.

Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and a Chinese partner gave up their joint bid for Saab last week due to costly delays.

Sweden's government has repeatedly said it would not take a stake in the brand, and the Swedish media was less optimistic Saab's survival.

Following Tuesday's announcement, the TT news agency described the situation as "a month-long voyage between hope and despair".

Tabloid Aftonbladet, Sweden's most widely read newspaper, said closure of the iconic brand remained "just around the corner."

According to Dagens Nyheter (DN), "Saab's two decades under GM's wing were a disappointment for both parties and serves unfortunately as a deterring example for potential bidders."

The daily said "uncertainty and worry" would continue for the coming month, noting that "Saab's profitability problems can't be resolved, even if GM finds a buyer."

Saab workers nevertheless remain hopeful about the chances of Saab, which produced its first car in 1947, surviving past the New Year.

"They've given us 30 days. That means they'll let us go after New Year's," Jörgen Landin, a Saab employee of more than 30 years, said Wednesday as he arrived for his shift at the Trollhättan plant.

"But we haven't given up all hope yet ... That's what I need to believe," he added.

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