Analysts wary of Spyker bid amid crisis talks

Sweden's government held crisis talks with union representatives in Stockholm on Monday as the clock ticks down on Saab Automobile's stay of execution.

Analysts wary of Spyker bid amid crisis talks

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.

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.

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Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.