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GENERAL MOTORS

Spyker lined up to buy Saab: GM

General Motors has revealed that Dutch sportscar maker Spyker is the only firm in the running for the acquisition of Saab Automobile, Reuters reports.

Earlier in the day, Jöran Hägglund, state secretary in the Swedish enterprise ministry, said there was “one main lead”, without revealing the identity of the prospective buyer.

“We, both the European Investment Bank and the Swedish government, have been given one main lead that we are beginning to analyze, though we are also looking more broadly at a few other interested parties,” Hägglund told Sveriges Radio

Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and a Chinese partner, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. (BAIC), gave up their joint bid for Saab last month, citing costly delays in the transaction.

The European Investment Bank had already given Saab the green light for a €400 million ($600 million) loan during Koenigsegg’s negotiations based on its business plan for Saab, but the Swedish government had yet to agree to act as guarantor when Koenigsegg withdrew its offer.

Hägglund refused to be drawn on the name of the new potential buyer, but Swedish media reports have suggested it is Dutch sports car maker Spyker.

GM “is now putting all its energy into concluding the necessary negotiations in order to meet the deadline set for the end of the year,” Hägglund said.

Saab has barely turned a profit in two decades.

The Swedish centre-right government has repeatedly refused to take a stake in the car maker, arguing that the state should not own companies — and especially not one that a major corporation like GM has been unable to turn around.

On Monday, BAIC announced it had agreed to acquire the technology for Saab’s outgoing 9-3 and 9-5 car models, turbine engines and gearboxes for an undisclosed sum.

Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri on Tuesday valued the sale at 1.4 billion kronor ($194 million), saying that was enough to keep the crisis-ridden iconic brand afloat until the end of the first quarter.

Saab, which built its first prototype cars in 1947, risks closure if no buyer is found.

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SPYING

Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

The Swedish government wants to make it easier for police and prosecutors to combat spying against refugees in Sweden and against the country as a whole.

Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

In addition, such crimes will be subject to stiffer penalties, according to a bill expected to be presented by the government on Thursday.

The proposal includes a wider definition of both crimes, which are currently difficult to prosecute.

The minimum sentence for spying on refugees will be increased from simple fines to prison time.

The definition of spying on refugees will also be expanded to “unauthorized intelligence activity against a person”, according to the proposal, and is meant to address cases in which foreign powers attempt to spy on regime critics who have fled in Sweden.

Current legislation stipulates that the spying must take place in secret, but now the government also wants to cover cases in which information gathering takes place openly and is often followed by threats.

“This is unsavoury activity that we must take very seriously. Many feel that authorities in their previous home countries are trying to put pressure on them and keeping tabs on what they do. Considering that many refugees have relatives back in their home countries, things can go quite badly,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told the TT news agency.

Iran, China, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Eritrea are among the countries that are sometimes accused of spying on refugees in Sweden, but very few cases ever make it to court.

The proposed law will also broaden the definition of unauthorized intelligence activity directed against Sweden.

“We’re widening what can be criminalized and it’s directed toward activities that one can compare with the first stage of spying,” said Ask.

The new definition targets the secret gathering of information and scraps a current requirement that the purpose of the information gathering must also be proven.

“This has been sought after for a long time by the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and others who investigate these types of crimes. They think it’s been too hard to bring forth evidence against the perpetrators,” said Ask.

Penalties for spying against Sweden will also tougher according to the new bill, to between six months and two years in prison, or four years of the crime is considered aggravated.

Stronger sentences makes it easier for investigators to have suspects held on remand or get authorization for telephone wiretapping and other “secret coercive measures”.

TT/The Local/dl

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