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Analysts wary of Spyker bid amid crisis talks

AFP/The Local · 21 Dec 2009, 14:54

Published: 21 Dec 2009 14:54 GMT+01:00

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The meeting took place just hours before Spyker's new bid was to expire at 11pm CET on Monday.

"We have to try every possibility to save Saab," Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson told Swedish radio a few hours before the meeting, adding however that she was sceptical about Spyker's chances of succeeding in saving Saab.

Swedish government officials, Saab management, union representatives and local officials from Saab's hometown of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden were taking part in the emergency talks on the future of Saab, as well as that of the town of 55,000.

Swedish news agency TT reported GM officials would not be at the meeting.

GM has been trying to sell the loss-making unit since the start of the year.

Saab employs about 3,400 people in Sweden. According to media reports, Saab's closure could lead to more than 8,000 job losses, including subcontractors and others dependent on the carmaker.

But Saab's fate remained in limbo on Monday after Spyker announced its renewed bid.

The surprise announcement came two days after Saab's American owners General Motors broke off talks with the Dutch group and said they would begin winding down the iconic brand.

One of Sweden's most respected auto industry analysts, Matts Carlsson, said GM was probably not interested in selling Saab at all, suggesting the US carmaker would rather shut down Saab because of fears over future competition.

"They are probably figuring that they would rather take the cost associated with shutting down (Saab) so as to not end up with competition in five, ten years," Carlsson told Swedish public radio Monday.

GM's reaction could be interpreted as a message to Saab employees that "we don't want to have to face you in a future competition situation," Carlsson said.

GM decided earlier this year to hold onto German brand Opel after initial plans to sell it. Both Saab and Opel have in recent years been manufactured on the same platform.

Another analyst, Håkan Matson, was also sceptical about the new bid, noting that Spyker's new offer was only valid until 11pm on Monday.

"For the buyer to set a time limit is, in my opinion, strange and unprofessional," he wrote in a column in Swedish business daily Dagens Industri.

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet meanwhile reported Spyker's Russian investors Vladimir and Alexander Antonov were no longer behind the Dutch group's bid for Saab -- reportedly one of the sticking points in the negotiations with GM.

And Dagens Industri and Swedish news agency TT said Spyker was not the only bidder in the race for the brand.

Story continues below…

They quoted Saab enthusiast website Saabsunited which said US investment firm Merbanco had also made a new bid for Saab with an unidentified Swedish consortium.

Merbanco was one of three firms, along with China's Beijing Automotive (BAIC) and US holding company Renco Group, identified as possible bidders for Saab after Swedish luxury carmaker Koeninsegg withdrew its bid for the brand on November 24th.

GM rejected Merbanco's earlier bid, Dagens Industri said.

On Sunday, the heads of Sweden's influential IF Metall and Unionen unions, along with Sweden's main engineers' association, sent an open letter to GM's board.

"We believe that further alternatives should have been given more attention ... We appeal to the Board of General Motors to most thoroughly investigate the new initiatives," they wrote.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:13 December 21, 2009 by GlobalDispute
LOL. If by competition you mean a company that loses money on every car made and that has management that can't make a decision because of fika time, then you may be correct.

I am really tired of seeing all of the comments about SAAB. I have an idea. All of the SAAB employees gather your money and make it employee owned. Would they be willing to put their cash on the line? I don't think so. GM has dumped 6 billion dollars into the SAAB anchor since they took partial ownership. Anyone else willing for the next 6?
16:20 December 21, 2009 by ingvar
@GlobalDispute: It seems that Spyker is willing; isn't it?
16:32 December 21, 2009 by GlobalDispute
The problem is that we will probably never see the 11 point list. One of the points was that Spyker wanted the EIB loan completed by the 31st. That is not in GMs hands. I would like to see the other 10 points. GM needs to protect all of it's other assets also. Spyker may be demanding technology that GM just isn't willing to part with. Maybe people should look into some of the stories that are being written about Spyker. The Swedish people are by the way going to be responsible for repaying the loans when they fold.
17:21 December 21, 2009 by Bensonradar
Seems strange the Swedish government do not want to step in and save it. Maybe they don't trust the unions.

However, if the state bought it and ran it until it started to pick up, then more appropriate investors would show interest.

@Global Dispute: why not? It is shown that when stakeholders own their own company, they make an effort to make it profitable. When you own a piece of the action, your attitudes change and you become more conservative and hence more businesslike. Surely, out of the thousands who work in the Trollhättan plant, some of them must have MBAs in Business, Finance and Manufacturing? Someone, surely, can show some initiative?

Anyhow, must dash as I am off for my coffee break.

Merry Xmas
17:35 December 21, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
"One of Sweden's most respected auto industry analysts, Matts Carlsson"

"They are probably figuring that they would rather take the cost associated with shutting down (Saab) so as to not end up with competition in five, ten years,"

Ha ha ha... respected by who after that comment? This guy is living in a complete dream land. The GM exec's are probably ROFL over this comment.

GM has probably 20 to 30 different manufacturers in the same market segments as it's own products to compete with now, one more obscure Swedish brand will not make a difference.
18:22 December 21, 2009 by Scotsaab
For Renfeh Hguh

Please keep your comments polite. Matts Carlsson is a leading global analyst and much respected. If anyone in in a "dream land" it may be yourself. I suspect you are an American or America-based? If not, sincere apologies, but you responses to this tragic situation suggest your allegiances sit on the Western side of the Atlantic - and that's where Saab's problems began.
18:42 December 21, 2009 by Rick Methven

Well said that man!
19:06 December 21, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh

I am certainly not a yank and only ever been there once, a weekend in NYC... Unlike you, I am in Sweden, I am a Swedish citizen and a Swedish tax payer.

I totally agree that GM is at fault for the current situation. Like Ford with Jaguar and Volvo, instead of engineering for their quality brands and then let the quality filter down to the mass market brands, both American companies did it in reverse and the cars suffered for it. Whilst I like Subaru, the Saabaru just goes to show how off the planet GM was/is.

Like I said, there are 20 to 30 different brands out there that GM has to compete with and one more is not going to be an issue for them. For Matts Carlsson to make a comment like that shows that his judgement on the issue is probably clouded by love of the brand and not based on cold hard reality of the car market place.
21:26 December 21, 2009 by repat_xpat
The sale of SAAB is complicated. SAAB's new products all include GM Intellectual Property. Most of that IP was not developed in Sweden and that which was developed in Sweden was paid for by GM. The question is, what are the buyer's interest in buying SAAB; 3500 workers in Trollhattan or the GM IP to build a car on a global platform? GM has no interest in hurting people in Trollhattan, but they do have an interest in protecting IP. GM may have to deny a sale simply to protect its IP.

BTW: Without GM SAAB would have gone under 20 years ago. I haven't seen much thankfulness to GM's for its 20 year endeavor to save SAAB.
00:03 December 22, 2009 by falcon
Spyker has zero credibility. They lose money in their own business. They keep changing their story.

Move on!
00:20 December 22, 2009 by aaww
it's free promotion for Spyker, so why not
05:03 December 22, 2009 by High Priestess Kang - Slut
Hugh -

While your point is compelling, you come across as a complete tw@twaffle with the whole I'm more Swedish than you comment. Plenty of people, whether or not they have touched Swedish soil, have a vested interest in seeing SAAB remain in production and a viable product in a floundering market.

To quote Milkface, "Suck it."
08:29 December 22, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
HPK... I only made the "Swedish" comment because Scotty wrongly made such a deal about me being on the other side of the pond.
11:07 December 22, 2009 by GlobalDispute
Viable product? Remain? Have I missed something about SAAB.
12:02 December 22, 2009 by spy

Your comment: 'Without GM SAAB would have gone under 20 years ago. I haven't seen much thankfulness to GM's for its 20 year endeavour to save SAAB.'

That is the most stupid comment I have seen for a while. GM 'won' the last race to own Saab since then they starved it nearly to death while at the same time raping its technological competencies. Now because GM have ballsed up their global strategy they are looking to offload Saab in the most idiotic manner.

So to answer your comment: I can see why Saab is not 'thankful' as it is hard to imagine a less competent, sympathetic and desirable owner than GM. Had GM not bought Saab 20 years ago I am sure Saab could have found a much better owner and would be in much better shape.
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