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Last-ditch Swedish effort to save Saab

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Last-ditch Swedish effort to save Saab
Saab owners and enthusiasts gather near GM headquarters in Detroit, Jan. 5, 2010
11:10 CET+01:00
A Swedish Government delegation has flown to the United States to coax General Motors into considering latest bids to keep its ailing Saab Automobile unit alive and running. The automotive giant announced on Friday that it had commenced formal liquidation proceedings of the Swedish-based brand.

Leading the delegation is Jöran Hägglund, Swedish state secretary for industry. Before leaving for Detroit, he told the Financial Times he was surprised that GM decided to launch liquidation in light of fresh offers to buy the brand.

One group includes Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One boss. Another group is led by the boutique Dutch sports car maker Spyker Cars which has been negotiating with GM for several weeks.

Swedish media has reported a third bid approach by Swedish business leaders led by Jan Nygren, a former cabinet minister.

Hägglund told the Financial Times “we still hope there is a chance of a deal, but every day that passes makes it harder. GM is working on a two-track process, and one of those tracks is the wind-down.”

In a earlier statement, Hägglund said that “we will see what we can do, in order to, if possible, contribute to a possible sale of Saab.” A GM spokesman said that the company would seriously consider new bids while also proceeding with liquidation. GM CEO Ed Whitacre has said he is not optimistic about Saab's survival.

The Swedish Government has repeatedly stated it is prepared to provide loan guarantees if a suitable buyer is found. At stake are 3,400 jobs worldwide, mostly in Sweden where the storied brand is assembled. Purchased by GM in 1989, it has not turned a profit since 2001. In 2008 alone, it lost 3 billion kronor ($423 million). Last year GM said it wanted to sell Saab.

In addition to talks with GM, Hägglund will also meet with officials from Ford. It is selling its Swedish unit Volvo to Chinese carmaker Geely.

The Associated Press said there was speculation that a Wyoming-based group of investors may also be in the running to buy Saab, which was founded in 1937 as an aircraft company. After World War II it introduced the Saab car that was heavily influenced by aircraft designers.

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