Saab in the News
Updated: 18 Dec 09 5:37am EST

* BAIC to immediately start integrating Saab designs
* First vehicles using Saab IP available as soon as 2011
* Exploring other opportunities, including green vehicles

By Michael Wei and Doug Young

BEIJING, Dec 18 (Reuters) - BAIC said on Friday it will immediately start integrating its newly acquired technology from GM's Saab unit into its vehicles, with commercial production for Saab-based cars to begin as soon as 2011.

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co, China's fifth-biggest automaker, recently acquired the rights to three vehicle platforms from Saab for an undisclosed sum.

The hastily arranged purchase was put together in just two weeks, after a larger deal unravelled that would have seen a group led by Swedish sportscar maker Koenigsegg buy all of Saab. BAIC had been a part of that group.

"We will start integrating right away," Gu Lei, president of BAIC's technology centre, told reporters at a news conference. He added that commercial production for vehicles with the newly acquired technology could start as soon as mid-2011.

BAIC President Wang Dazong said his company and Saab are also exploring other opportunities involving other technologies such as "new energy" vehicles.

"We need to have our own brand cars, and we need to grow our competency," he said. "We need to become a global company."

BAIC said on Monday it will buy the intellectual property of Saab and some equipment to make them for an undisclosed sum, as part of a push to develop its own-brand cars.

That sale came after another Chinese company, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industry, bought GM's loss-making Hummer unit as the U.S. auto giant restructures.

Wang would not disclose the transaction amount for BAIC's purchase of the Saab designs. But a Swedish daily Dagens Industri put the number at 1.4 billion crowns ($197 million), citing a source who was involved in the process.

China surpassed the United States this year to become the world's largest auto market, as sales soared after Beijing rolled out a series of incentives designed to stimulate consumer spending during the global downturn.

The company's production partners in China include Daimler and Hyundai Motor, with most of their joint output for sale in the domestic market.

Wang said BAIC's exports are still relatively small, at about 50,000 vehicles this year. He added it is still too early to say if vehicles produced using the Saab designs could be used for export.

"We need time to develop more plans, integrating the technology into our vehicles," he said. "Those plans are in the works."

Most Chinese automakers are either churning out foreign brand cars in tie-ups with global heavyweights such as Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor or focused on the lower end, making cars as cheap as 30,000 yuan ($4,394).

But as wealth grows in what has now become the world's biggest auto market, many Chinese carmakers are looking to boost their profile.

The Chinese government is envisioning that half of passenger cars sold in the country to be self-developed by 2015, according to a media report earlier this week, citing government guidelines, which are expected to be released in the first half of 2010.

State-run BAIC is joining Geely Automobile Group <0175.HK> and other fast-growing Chinese auto firms in chasing Western brands to take advantage of a steep global industry downturn.

BAIC has made clear it has no interest in acquiring Saab's production hub in Trollhattan. ($1=6.83 yuan) (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)



Last Updated: December 18, 2009 09:12 EST

By Katie Merx and Jeff Green

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. said it can’t conclude the sale of its Saab Automobile division to Spyker Cars NV, and plans to wind down the money-losing Swedish brand.

The companies encountered “certain issues” that couldn’t be resolved during talks on a sale, Detroit-based GM said today in an e-mailed statement. GM said it expects Saab to satisfy debts including supplier payments, and the unit will honor warranties and provide service and spare parts.

GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre said Dec. 15 that Saab would be shut unless he had a sales accord by month’s end. Koenigsegg Group AB backed out of a Saab purchase agreement on Nov. 24, three weeks after GM reversed a plan to sell the European Opel unit and opted to keep it.

“If you were a gambling man you would have bet this deal would not close because none of the other deals have closed,” said Mike Tyndall, an analyst with Nomura Securities in London.

Spyker, a Dutch maker of $235,000 sports cars, emerged as the front-runner to buy Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab this month, people familiar with the matter have said. Spyker used Koenigsegg’s business plan in its bid, CEO Victor Muller said yesterday.

Spyker fell 43 cents, or 20 percent, to 1.76 euros at 2:49 p.m. on the Amsterdam exchange.

Whitacre told reporters in Detroit this week that Spyker was the last bidder for Saab, which traces its roots to aircraft company Svenska Aeroplan AB, founded in 1937 to secure production of Swedish warplanes. The first car left the factory a decade later.

GM is shedding the Saab, Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac brands to focus on Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick.



Updated: 14 Dec 09 11:58 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23834/20091214/

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. (BAIC) of China confirmed on Monday it has reached an agreement with Saab Automobile to buy the intellectual property rights for certain assets of the struggling Swedish carmaker.

The deal comes after BAIC, China's fifth largest automaker, and Swedish high-performance carmaker Koenigsegg gave up their joint bid for Saab last month, citing costly delays in the transaction.

BAIC will acquire the technology for Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 car models, turbine engines and gearboxes, it said in a statement.

Saab will also help BAIC develop its own-brand cars using the Swedish carmaker's technology, it said.

The Chinese company said the deal was an "important milestone for BAIC and Saab's strategic cooperation and paved a good foundation for the two sides to further explore and expand win-win cooperation".

Financial details of the deal were not released.

Jan Åke Jonsson, managing director of Saab, said in a separate statement that the deal was "excellent for both parties, now and for the future."

"We have developed a good relationship with BAIC and look forward to working with them to integrate this Saab technology into their future vehicles," Jonsson said.

Hou Yankun, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Nomura International, told AFP: "I think it's a clever move -- Chinese companies have had a hard time operating the brands they acquired.

"What the Chinese auto sector is in need of is technology. When you have the technology you can launch improved models, which is the key, and build your own brand step by step."

The BAIC-Koenigsegg bid for Saab fell through as Koenigsegg needed a $600 million loan from the European Investment Bank and wanted the Swedish government to act as a guarantor, but the request was not acted upon.

Despite the setback, analysts had not ruled out BAIC pursuing the bid on its own given its financial strength and desire to access foreign technology.

In the first six months of this year, BAIC reported a net profit of 370 million dollars, up 78 percent from the same period last year, previous state media reports said.

BAIC, founded in 1958, already has joint ventures with Daimler and South Korea's Hyundai.

An attempt to buy Opel, another European unit of the troubled US auto giant GM, collapsed in July after BAIC failed to reach an agreement with the US company due to intellectual property rights concerns.

Despite the deal with BAIC, the future of the Saab nameplate remains uncertain.

Dutch sports car maker Spyker said early this month that it was in talks with GM on the possibility of buying Saab from the US company.

GM said previously it has received interest from buyers and would decide the fate of its Swedish unit, which employs 3,400 people, by the end of December. It has warned it may end the Saab brand if it fails to find a suitable buyer.



Tue, Dec 8 2009

* GM unit still hopes to be sold in its entirety
* Saab union sceptical about reports of partial sale to BAIC

STOCKHOLM, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Saab remains optimistic a buyer can be found for the whole company in the face of indications its owner, General Motors Co, is talking to China's BAIC about a partial sale of assets tied to the Swedish brand.

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Group has made clear it has no interest in acquiring Saab's production hub in Trollhattan, Sweden, two sources said on Monday.

A move by BAIC to acquire tools and technology for an older generation of Saab cars for production in China could result in a liquidation of other assets held by the brand, threatening more than 3,000 Saab jobs in Sweden.

But Saab is still optimistic it can avoid being carved up.

"We've seen quite some interest over the last week or two, but we cannot go into closer detail more than to say that there are those interested in buying Saab in its entirety," spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs told Reuters.

She declined to comment on BAIC's plans.

Union leader Paul Akerlund said he had received no information implying BAIC wanted to pick and choose from Saab's assets.

"I have heard about this (in the news) this morning, but no, it is nothing I've been informed about," Akerlund said. "Naturally, I cannot know exactly what has been said, but that is something I take lightly. I simply don't believe it."

"The discussions going on are with what we regard as serious prospective buyers of Saab," he said.

Dutch luxury car maker Spyker said last week it is talking to General Motors about buying Saab. U.S. financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group have also expressed an interest in pursuing a deal.

The future home of Sweden's other carmaker, Ford Motor Co's Volvo Car Corporation, was also in doubt this week after a consortium dominated by Swedish interests said they were ready to make a cash bid for the unit to rival that of China's Geely.



Last Updated: December 2, 2009 12:28 EST
Online: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a8wmcpV.DOZ0

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. has narrowed its options for the Saab unit in Sweden to no more than three bidders, according to two people familiar with the matter.

GM is reviewing proposals by Spyker Cars NV and Renco Group Inc., with Renco less likely to gain consideration, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Merbanco Inc., a Wyoming-based investor group, is out of the race, they said.

GM is still weighing a sale of certain Saab assets to Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. and unwinding the rest of the company, said the people. The Detroit automaker is trying to shed the unit after Koenigsegg Group AB backed out of a purchase agreement last week. The disposal of Saab as well as the Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac brands was part of GM’s plan to return to profit after a $50 billion U.S.-backed bankruptcy from which it emerged July 10.

“It’s heartbreaking to see a company like Saab going down -- Saab is a beautiful brand,” Spyker Chief Executive Officer Victor Muller said in a telephone interview today from Los Angeles, where he is attending the auto show. The Dutch maker of $235,000 sports cars is bidding for Saab in a partnership with RMC Convers Group Holding Ltd, its biggest owner, he said.

GM said yesterday it will review bids for Saab and decide by the end of December whether to sell or shut the Swedish unit.
Spyker Spikes
Spyker climbed 45.5 cents, or 29 percent, to 2.04 euros, the steepest increase since Oct. 14, 2008.

The company divested its unprofitable Formula One racing team in 2007 and sold 12 vehicles in the third quarter. Its C8 Aileron, which accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, retails for at least $235,000 excluding taxes in the U.S., the company’s main market.

Beijing Auto, which was part of Koenigsegg’s bid, plans to “move fast” on Saab as the Chinese carmaker seeks to improve its technology, President Wang Dazong said Nov. 30. GM spurned an offer from Beijing Auto for its Germany-based Opel division earlier this year and closed the Saturn brand when Penske Automotive Group Inc. withdrew a bid in September.

The Chinese carmaker, which has partnerships in its home market with Seoul-based Hyundai and Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG, sold 1.02 million vehicles in the first 10 months of 2009, 51.6 percent more than last year. This is the first year its sales surpassed 1 million, the carmaker said.

John Dillard, a spokesman for Renco, owned by billionaire Ira Rennert, didn’t return a phone call. Neither did Merbanco President Chris Johnston. Zheng Gang, a spokesman for Beijing Auto, declined to comment earlier.

‘Serious’ Interest
In a statement yesterday, GM said it wouldn’t discuss specific bidders or proposals for Trollhaettan-based Saab.

GM’s decision “confirms that the interested parties are serious enough to be evaluated,” said Gunilla Gustavs, a spokeswoman for Saab. Much of the work GM completed with Koenigsegg can be used with another owner, she said. “We have a big belief that we will succeed. Time is short, and the work will be extremely intensive now.”

Koenigsegg’s pullout thrust Saab into jeopardy again after the automaker sought protection from creditors in February, following a decision by GM to cut it off by the end of the year. Saab, which exited reorganization in August, had expected the sale to be completed by the end of November, allowing fresh funds to finance a ramp-up of production of older models and start production of new ones.

Aerospace Heritage

Saab is retooling its plant in Trollhaettan to begin production of the 9-5 sedan, the company’s first new model in seven years. The carmaker reported a 59 percent slump in European sales and a 62 percent drop in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2009.

Sweden has ruled out taking over Saab. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has said the government has no mandate to use taxpayer money to build cars.

GM’s decision “is positive news for Saab, Trollhaettan, but also for the entire Swedish car industry,” said Ulf Bengtsson, chairman of the Swedish Engineers’ Union. “Saab has shown throughout its history that it is at the forefront of technology. It’s an important position we hope they will retain in the future.”

Saab traces its roots to aircraft company Svenska Aeroplan AB, founded in 1937 to secure production of Swedish warplanes. GM bought half of Saab in 1990 and took full ownership a decade later.



Published: 2 Dec 09 14:17 CET
Updated: 2 Dec 09 17:34 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23614/20091202/

A second niche luxury sports carmaker, Spyker, has confirmed it is interested in buying Saab Automobile.

"All I can say is that we and our main shareholder, Converse Group, are interested in Saab and there are talks at the moment," Spyker spokesman Niels Molewijk told AFP by telephone.

"We are having discussions on this topic with Saab and also with GM since they are the ones selling."

Converse Group holds 30 percent of the capital of Spyker, which is listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange.

A spokesperson for Spyker Cars, a brand which was revived again in 2000 after 70 years of dormancy, also confirmed its interest in Saab to the TT news agency.

Spyker’s roots go back to the 1870s when it was a family firm which first built coaches prior to moving into automobile and aircraft production before going bankrupt in the 1920s.

The brand was revived in 1999 as Spyker Cars by current CEO Victor Muller and Maarten de Bruijn, with the company’s first hand-built luxury cars coming on line in 2000.

Last year, Spyker sold 43 vehicles for around €200,000 ($301,400) a piece, according to the Reuters news agency.

Today, the company has 135 employees based at a plant in Zeewolde in the Netherlands. But production is in the process of being relocated to Coventry, England as part of a cost savings programme.

Spyker has yet to turn a profit and has had to rely on financing to survive, Reuters reports.

During 20 years of ownership by GM, Saab never made a profit and is expected to lose about 3 billion kronor ($434.5 million) in 2009 and 2010.

Following a decision by Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg to abandon plans to buy Saab, the future of the company has been uncertain.

On Tuesday, the board of GM said it will consider offers for Saab until the end of the year, by which time it will either be sold or shut down.

Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin said she is supporting the government’s efforts to ensure Saab’s survival.

“It’s now up to all the parties to help out. The government knows that we in the opposition will do everything to solve this, pushing a bill through the Riksdag which supports the Swedish vehicles industry,” she told TT.



Published: 1 Dec 09 21:20 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23598/20091201/
Troubled car maker Saab was granted an eleventh hour reprieve on Tuesday as owner General Motors said it would evaluate "expressions of interest" for its Swedish unit.

The US auto maker indicated it was continuing to seek a buyer for Saab after Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and a Chinese partner gave up a bid due to costly delays.

But GM said it may end the nameplate if it fails to find a suitable buyer.

"The GM board of directors has received expressions of interest in Saab since the conclusion of negotiations with Koenigsegg Group AB," a GM statement said.

"The board will evaluate potential bids between now and the end of December. At that time, we will determine whether a suitable arrangement for Saab exists. If not, we will begin an orderly wind-down of the global Saab business at that time."

GM declined to name any of the potential bidders "due to non-disclosure agreements."

Koenigsegg announced in September that it had teamed up with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co Ltd (BAIC) to buy Saab from GM.

But it still needed a €400 million ($600 million) loan from the European Investment Bank and wanted the Swedish government to act as a guarantor.

Swedish media have suggested that Saab was running short of money to continue its day-to-day operations, and doubts have flourished among experts about whether Koenigsegg would have the expertise to run a major car company.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)



Published: 1 Dec 09 07:50 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23574/20091201/
The head of Saab Automobile, Jan Åke Jonsson, confirmed that General Motors (GM) is actively looking for new owners for the company’s Swedish division, following a meeting with GM management on Monday.

“Absolutely! Absolutely. We were all caught unawares when Koenigsegg jumped off last week. But myself, the government and GM are working very hard to find an alternative, a quick solution,” Jonsson told the TT news agency.

He would not say how he thinks the board of GM will vote, but he is sure that a decision about Saab’s fate will come following the board’s meeting on Tuesday.

“Now we’ve made sure that everyone has the same information; that all the facts are on the table. Then we’ll have to see what sort of proposals the GM board puts forward,” said Jonsson.

State secretary Jöran Hägglund from the Swedish industry ministry added that there is a chance the beleaguered Swedish brand will survive.

“All hope is not lost for Saab, just like all hope wasn’t lost last week,” he told TT.

He was satisfied with the meetings he and the rest of the delegation from Sweden had with the GM board of directors, but refused to say whether he was more optimistic about Saab’s future before or after the meeting.

“We had a good conversation. There was a really good tone. Now we’ll see how long it lasts. It’s GM that owns Saab, and it’s GM that owns the process.”

According to Hägglund, the GM board members were “receptive”.

“We described carefully what we have in the Swedish toolbox,” he said, alluding primarily to the loan guarantees and publicly financed research programme currently on offer by the Swedish state.

Hägglund added that there will be “many different meetings with different buyers” in the United States, but he would not reveal who the prospective buyers are.

“We’ll have reason to comment on that in due time. What I’m saying is that all hope is not lost,” he said.

Saab CEO Jonsson also refrained from commenting on who he planned to meet while in Detroit, or even if he would be accompanied by Swedish government representatives.

His goal, regardless of the buyer, is to try to keep Saab’s manufacturing base in Trollhättan in western Sweden.

“Our business plan is based on concentrating all manufacturing in Sweden. We’re working hard to find a solution,” he said.

Nevertheless, tensions in Trollhättan were running high on Tuesday morning in anticipation of a decision from the GM board that will likely decide the fate of the town’s nearly 4,000 Saab employees.

“Uncertainty is the worst,” said Anette Hellgren, local representative for the Unionen labour group, to TT.

“Today we want to have a decision.”

Hellgren explained that the head of Unionen, Cecilia Fahlberg, plans to visit the union’s Trollhättan members on Tuesday.

“We need to have a decision about how the future will look. It’s not good for our employees or our products when things drag on so long,” she said.

Despite her anxiety, Hellgren added that she is “happy” that discussions about Saab’s future continue and that prospective buyers remain interested in the company.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)



Last Updated: November 30, 2009 03:45 EST

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. said it will “move fast” on General Motors Co.’s Saab unit after its partner scrapped a bid for the Swedish automaker.

“Stay tuned,” Beijing Auto President Wang Dazong told reporters today in Nanjing, eastern China, when asked whether the company would bid alone for Saab or as part of a group. He declined to say whether a bid would be submitted before GM’s board discusses the unit’s future at a meeting tomorrow.

Beijing Auto previously offered to buy GM’s Opel unit to tackle what Wang today called a lack of “technology depth” at the Chinese automaker. While GM directors might opt to keep Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab, as they did with Opel this month, GM has a contingency plan that calls for winding down the brand, people familiar with the plan have said.

“If Beijing Auto bought the technology, they wouldn’t have anyone who understood it,” said John Zeng, a Shanghai-based analyst at IHS Global Insight. “It would be a big challenge for them to make it a success.”

Koenigsegg Group AB last week walked away from a Beijing Auto-backed bid for Saab, saying it ran out of time to complete a transaction. Beijing Auto, Merbanco Inc. and Renco Group Inc. have since made approaches about Saab, two people familiar with the situation have said. Wang declined to say whether Beijing Auto has made an approach.

“I can’t control GM’s timetable,” Wang said. “We want to move fast.”

New Bids?
Beijing Auto and Merbanco may make a joint offer for Saab, Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri reported today, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the plan.

Zheng Gang, a Beijing Auto spokesman, declined to comment on the report. Merbanco President Chris Johnston didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Merbanco, a Wyoming-based investor group, was one of the three final suitors for Saab in June, together with Koenigsegg and Renco, people familiar with the situation have said.

Johnston said in a Nov. 26 interview that he would be willing to help Saab. When asked whether that could include acquiring a majority stake in the carmaker, he said: “that could be one way.”

“I do not believe that the company should be closed,” Johnston said in the interview. “Whoever buys Saab, or if GM keeps Saab, there’s a lot of work ahead but I believe that the company should survive.”

Opel, Volvo
In the past, Merbanco has acquired companies in industries ranging from financial services to agricultural equipment, he said. “We are turnaround people,” he said. “We are very interested in companies that are stressed. We really like to work with talented management teams to fix companies. We are very hands-on, we are very involved.”

Beijing Auto’s bid for Opel failed because the companies couldn’t come to an agreement over intellectual property rights to car designs and technology, Beijing Auto said at the time.

Chinese carmaker Geely Holding Group Co., which is in talks to buy Ford Motor Co.’s Volvo, said last week that the Swedish unit would retain ownership of technology following a sale.

Asked if Beijing Auto would follow Geely’s example with Saab, Wang said: “We don’t see a need to buy a new plant. I don’t see a need to buy a building; I don’t see a need to buy a robot. So what’s left? You figure it out.”

Two Decades
At Saab’s peak of popularity in the 1980s, it appealed to buyers who sought a European brand mixing safety, reliability and innovation. GM bought half of Saab in 1990 and the rest in 2000.

Saab has been unprofitable for most of the time under GM control. As the U.S. carmaker slid toward bankruptcy it decided in February to dispose of the Swedish unit. Saab sold fewer than 100,000 vehicles worldwide last year.

Saab’s U.S. sales slumped 62 percent this year through October, with just 513 deliveries last month, and the European total plunged 59 percent.



Published: 24 Nov 09 17:02 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23458/20091124/

A group headed by Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg has broken off negotiations over the purchase of Saab Automobile, the prospective buyer has said.

"We regret that, after six months of intensive and goal-oriented work, we have come to the painful and difficult conclusion that we are not going to be able to carry out the acquisition of Saab Automobile," said company chief Christian von Koenigsegg in a statement.

The collapse leaves thousands of jobs in western Sweden at risk - as well as the 4,000 people employed at the plant, many thousands of people work at Saab's suppliers. Tens of thousands around the world are employed in Saab dealerships.

Speaking to Swedish news agency TT, von Koenigsegg added that the deal had collapsed because it had taken too long to reach agreement:

"The way things look right now, we cannot complete the deal. The timeframe is unpredictable, there are too many processes that need to fall into place in parallel. Time has dragged on and not everyone has kept up.

"We have a business plan, but when Saab is bleeding and can't develop during this period of waiting the financial implications and the results of the of the business plan are very unpredictable.

"We had set an absolutely final deadline of 30th November and we saw today that there was no hope of getting a deal together by then. And after that we dare not believe in the plan. Too much time has passed."

Koenigsegg announced in September that it had teamed up with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co Ltd (BAIC) to buy Saab from GM.

But it still needed a a €400 million ($600 million) loan from the European Investment Bank and wanted the Swedish government to act as a guarantor.

Swedish media have recently suggested that Saab was short of money to continue its day-to-day operations, and doubts have flourished among experts and commentators about whether Koenigsegg would have the necessary expertise to run a major car company.

Koenigsegg Group takes its name from sportscar maker Koenigsegg Automotive, which was founded in 1994, has just 45 employees and produces 18 high-end sports cars a year at more than a million euros ($1.4 million) each. Koenigsegg Automotive is a minority shareholder in Koenigsegg Group, with other shareholders including BAIC, von Koenigsegg's holding company Alpraaz and Norwegian businessman Bård Eker.

US businessman Mark Bishop, who was a shareholder when Koenigsegg Group was founded in June, is understood to have since sold his share in the company.

The Swedish government had as of Tuesday still not decided whether to act as guarantor.

General Motors said on Tuesday it was "disappointed" that Koenigsegg Group had terminated a deal to buy its Saab brand.

"We're obviously very disappointed with the decision to pull out of the Saab purchase," GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson said in a statement.

"Many have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a sustainable plan for the future of Saab by selling the brand and its manufacturing interests to Koenigsegg Group AB," Henderson said.

"Given the sudden change in direction, we will take the next several days to assess the situation and will advise on the next steps next week."

GM said the proposed sale of its Swedish mark was "terminated at the discretion of the buyer."

Unions at Saab's plant in Trollhättan were surprised by the collapse of the agreement:

"This was very unexpected. I thought they'd come a long way in discussions with Koenigsegg and basically thought that the whole deal was completely sealed," said Håkan Danielsson, chairman of the local branch of Akademikerna, which represents white-collar workers at the factory.



Last Updated: Nov. 16 (Bloomberg)
By Niklas Magnusson and Ola Kinnander

Saab Automobile AB dealers in the U.S. are running out of new cars after the Swedish carmaker cut production to conserve cash and prepare for its first new model in seven years.

“We have about 10 Saabs left, and they won’t last long,” said Ivan Goodwin, sales manager at Jim Ellis Saab in Atlanta. “It’s going to be a big problem, but there is nothing we can do about it.”

Saab, which General Motors Co. is selling to an investor group led by Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB, has slowed assembly to retool its Swedish factory to build the new 9-5 sedan starting next year, spokesman Eric Geers said. The company said last week it will eliminate more than a third of its U.S. dealers. Those that have received notice that they will remain open say they may be limited by a lack of inventory.

The time it takes for Saab to deliver the new car and ramp up production of other models is crucial for dealers, whose sales have slumped since GM said in February it would cut ties by the end of 2009 and Saab filed for bankruptcy protection. Saab has also held back assembly as it waits for Koenigsegg to take over and a loan from the European Investment Bank to arrive.

“Our stockpile isn’t very large anymore as we’ve worked hard during the reconstruction to reduce it,” Geers said by telephone from Budapest, where Saab is showing the new model. “When we close the deal and change owners we can start producing again for real as we then will have financing.”

Sales Slump
Saab is struggling in the U.S., which it has identified as one of its four most important markets, announcing last week plans to close 81 of 218 U.S. dealerships. Saab sold 21,368 cars in the U.S. in 2008, or 23 percent of deliveries. The carmaker has yet to identify which dealers will be shut, though the dealers have received letters letting them know their status.

Saab’s 10-month sales slumped 62 percent to 7,441 cars in the U.S., the world’s largest auto market. The automaker sold just 513 cars in the U.S. last month.

In Europe, Saab’s biggest market, 10-month sales plunged 59 percent to 23,590 vehicles, a steeper decline than for any other major carmaker. In October, Saab sold 1,753 cars in Europe, down 65 percent from last year, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said today in a statement.

‘Failure to Deliver’
“One of the side effects with the transition from being a GM subsidiary to a Swedish group is that Saab has not been able to run the factory at a satisfactory level,” Stephen Pope, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London, said. “They are disappointing buyers with extended waiting times or just failure to deliver.”

Saab said it will start delivering the 9-5 in early 2010, probably first in Sweden, before shipments elsewhere. At Parkfield Saab in New Jersey, dealer Rick Wehle said he hopes the cars come fast enough. He has 30 new Saabs in stock and expects to run out of new cars within a couple of months. The dealership, which has been notified it will remain open, sold 10 Saabs last month.

The carmaker told U.S. dealers on a Nov. 10 conference call that dealers would be able to place orders for the new model “soon,” Wehle said.

“It looks to some of us we will not have 2010 models to sell until the spring,” Wehle said. “I sure hope production has started because our 2009s will be long gone by springtime.”

Car Introductions
The old 9-5 was first introduced in the late 1990s and is one of Saab’s three existing models. Carmakers typically replace a vehicle every five years or so. Saab has stepped up marketing of the new 9-5, its first new car of any kind in seven years, after showing the sedan for the first time two months ago.

“It looks as if it’s going to be a beautiful car and we should do very well with it,” said Tim Whalen, general manager of International Motors Ltd., a Saab dealer in Falls Church, Virginia, that is staying open. “We obviously would like to have it as soon as possible. We’ll take as many as we can get.”

While concern over access to new cars is most acute in the U.S., Swedish dealers are waiting too. Lars Kopp, who runs a dealership in southwest Sweden, said Saab has extended delivery times, with the longest wait being eight weeks, as Saab’s “stretched liquidity” means the carmaker cannot produce enough autos. He has 20 vehicles in stock and orders for 50 more.

‘Old and Stable’
“We’re not worried about our own liquidity, as we’re an old and stable company,” said Kopp, who has sold Saabs for more than two decades. “What is annoying and deplorable is that you don’t generate any money by just sitting here with orders.”

Saab is unable to increase production until the sale to Koenigsegg, which it had expected to close last month, is complete and new financing arrives, Geers said. The deal was postponed after the European Investment Bank delayed a decision on granting Saab a 400 million-euro ($600 million) loan, which it eventually approved Oct. 21. The European Commission must still sign off on the funding, leaving dealers waiting.

“We’ve been in limbo too long,” said Goodwin, the Atlanta dealer, which also received notice it will remain open. “But we’re optimistic. The new 9-5 has got more bells and whistles. It’s the best car they’ve ever made.”



Last Updated: Nov. 13 (Bloomberg)
By Niklas Magnusson and Ola Kinnander

Saab Automobile AB, the Swedish carmaker being sold by General Motors Co. to Koenigsegg Group, said it will slash its U.S. dealership network by 37 percent after sales of Saabs in North America plunged this year.

GM, which held the contracts with Saab’s dealers, has canceled the agreements with all of the Swedish carmaker’s 218 U.S. outlets because of the sale, Saab spokesman Eric Geers said today by telephone from Trollhaettan, Sweden. Koenigsegg and Saab have decided to renew contracts with 137 dealers based on their size and location, terminating 81 branches, Geers said.

Saab has been struggling in the U.S., one of its four most important markets, since GM said in February it would cut ties by the end of 2009 and the Swedish carmaker filed for bankruptcy protection. Saab’s sales in the U.S. in the first 10 months of this year slumped 62 percent to 7,441 cars, and it sold just 513 cars in the U.S. in October.

“We knew they were going to cut some, but we were surprised the number was this high,” Tim Whalen, general manager of International Motors Ltd., a Saab dealer in Falls Church, Virginia, said by telephone. “I’m happy we’re one of the ones staying.”

GM Europe spokeswoman Karin Kirchner in Zurich declined to identify any of the dealers affected and Koenigsegg spokeswoman Halldora von Koenigsegg didn’t return calls seeking comment.

New Dealer Agreement
“I understand that letters went out to every dealer yesterday and it was either a new dealer agreement to sign with Saab Cars North America, or it was a letter advising them that they were not going to be continued,” Whalen said.

Saab, which has been unprofitable for most of the 20 years GM has owned it, plans to become profitable by 2012 with annual sales of 100,000 cars, Christian von Koenigsegg, one of the investors in the group that plans to buy Saab, has said.

“They have looked at what is best for Saab, in what parts of the U.S. we should be, and at which dealers that have a good possibility to make good money,” Geers said. The downsizing “fits with Saab’s new business plan,” the spokesman said.

The brand’s U.S. market share tumbled to 0.16 percent last year from 0.29 percent in 2003, according to Autodata Corp. This year, Saab accounted for 0.09 percent of U.S. new light-vehicle sales, said the Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, researcher.

GM, which is also downsizing its U.S. dealer network, plans to eliminate half of its brands after emerging from bankruptcy, selling Hummer and Saab and shutting its Pontiac and Saturn units. It plans to keep Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac.



Last Updated: October 21, 2009 09:21 EDT
By Adam Ewing and Ola Kinnander

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The European Investment Bank approved a 400 million-euro ($598 million) loan to Saab Automobile that’s key to General Motors Co.’s planned sale of the carmaker to Koenigsegg Group, Koenigsegg said.

“This is one step, but it’s a milestone for us,” Koenigsegg Chairman Augie Fabela said today in a telephone interview. “There are still challenges, and time is of the essence, but everybody is working for the same goal, the revival of Saab.”

The Swedish carmaker would have to use the funds to develop fuel-efficient technologies and safety features under the terms of the financing with the European Union’s lending unit.

Koenigsegg, the maker of $1.2 million high-performance sports cars, won the bidding for Saab in June in a deal that would return the Trollhaettan-based automaker to Swedish control after almost two decades. Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co., China’s fastest-growing carmaker, agreed last month to take a minority stake in Koenigsegg Group.

Before Saab gets the money, Sweden’s government must agree to guarantee the credit and the European Commission must also rule that the loan doesn’t hinder competition by constituting improper state support.

The Swedish National Debt Office is examining Saab’s business plan to gauge whether the unprofitable carmaker will be able to repay the EIB loan.



Last Updated: October 6, 2009 06:15 EDT
By Niklas Magnusson and Johan Carlstrom

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.’s Saab Automobile division moved closer to receiving state backing for its sale to Koenigsegg Group after Sweden sought European Union approval for the terms of a proposed loan guarantee.

The government sent an application on Oct. 2 to the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, to gain an opinion before deciding whether to support the Saab transaction, Haakan Lind, a spokesman at the Stockholm-based Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, said today by phone.

Saab’s sale depends in part on the division receiving a $600 million European Investment Bank loan backed by the government. The takeover is also receiving private financing, including 3 billion kronor ($431 million) that became available when Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. joined Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB’s bidding partnership.

The authorities’ approach to the EU “would suggest that the Swedish government is happy enough to guarantee the loans,” said Mike Tyndall, an auto analyst at Nomura Securities in London. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the deal goes through or that Saab is guaranteed a bright, happy future.”

‘Important Milestone’

Talks are continuing with the Swedish National Debt Office about the guarantee, Eric Geers, a spokesman at Trollhaettan- based Saab, said yesterday, calling the government’s filing with the EU “an important milestone.”

The European Commission oversees whether state aid to companies in the 27-nation EU distorts competition. The EIB, the EU’s lending arm, aims to discuss Saab’s loan application at a board meeting Oct. 21, Eva Srejber, a vice president at the Luxembourg-based bank, said two weeks ago.

“We want the commission to evaluate the conditions that we’re discussing,” Swedish government spokesman Lind said. “Everyone is aware that all this is happening under time pressure.”

Jonathan Todd, a European Commission spokesman in Brussels, declined to comment today, beyond acknowledging that the regulator has received Sweden’s request.

GM’s Reorganization

Saab has been unprofitable for most of the 20 years that Detroit-based GM has owned the company. The unit received protection from creditors in February after the U.S. carmaker decided to cut ties while reorganizing worldwide to stem losses.

Consumers’ doubts about Saab’s future contributed to its 58 percent sales plunge in Europe in the first half, the biggest decline among all automakers in the region, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The group bidding for Saab is led by Augie Fabela II, an American who co-founded Russian mobile-phone operators OAO VimpelCom. In addition to Koenigsegg Automotive, maker of the $1.2 million CCXR sports car, and Beijing Automotive, China’s fastest-growing carmaker, Norwegian industrial-design entrepreneur Baard Eker is also an investor.



Last Updated: September 16, 2009 06:15 EDT
By Cornelius Rahn and Ryan Chilcote

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Saab Automobile, the carmaker being sold by General Motors Co., aims to reach an agreement within weeks that will give the Swedish manufacturer access to the Chinese market after the sale, its new owner said.

Saab has used GM’s distribution network in China with limited success and may need to rely on co-investor Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. to gain customers in the world’s largest car market, said Christian von Koenigsegg, founder of Koenigsegg Automotive AB, which is leading a group of investors in a takeover of Trollhaettan-based Saab.

Saab plans to become profitable by 2012 with annual sales of about 100,000 cars, von Koenigsegg said. The executive said he doesn’t expect GM to impose restrictions on Saab’s role in China similar to those facing the Opel brand that the Detroit- based carmaker is also selling. Opel is blocked from marketing its Astra and Insignia models in China as a condition of Magna International Inc. and OAO Sberbank taking over the German unit.

GM is “open to the idea to make it work” for Saab, von Koenigsegg said late yesterday in an interview at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “We are in the process of finding an agreement within the next few weeks.”

Beijing Automotive’s Role
An agreement with GM would unlock a growing economy with sales of 12 million cars this year, almost 50 times larger than Saab’s home market, according to China’s top planning agency. Saab plans to use Beijing Automotive’s sales network to sell its sedans and station wagons, and will share technology with the Chinese manufacturer, Koenigsegg Group said last week.

Saab sold fewer than 900 cars in China last year. Its models were introduced there about five years ago by GM.

“Beijing Automotive is an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the Chinese market with their experience,” Saab Chief Executive Officer Jan-Aake Jonsson said at a news conference in Frankfurt yesterday.

Saab has “GM’s support” for expanding in China, Jonsson said today in a Bloomberg Television interview at the show. The Swedish company also aims to develop its own sales network in the U.S. once it separates from GM, he said.

Beijing Automotive, China’s fastest-growing carmaker, is taking a minority stake in the Saab bidding team of Koenigsegg and U.S. investor Augie Fabela II.

Oct. 31 Target
The partners and GM are working through the “final pieces” of a transaction, and the purchase agreement should be completed by Oct. 31, Jonsson said yesterday. There are no plans “at this point” for Saab to stage an initial public offering, Jonsson said today.

Koenigsegg must still secure a loan from the European Investment Bank, as well as Swedish government guarantees for that loan, to acquire Saab.

Saab will need to revive sales before spending money to add manufacturing capacity in China, Jonsson said. The carmaker, which is shifting production of convertibles to Sweden from Austria, is sticking to plans to introduce a new version of its mid-sized 9-5 sedan in 2010, starting deliveries in Europe first and the U.S. by mid-year, he said.

The sales target for the 9-5 is 40,000 to 50,000 cars a year, Jonsson said. That compares with Saab’s global deliveries last year of about 93,000, less than half its 200,000-vehicle production capacity.



Last Updated: September 10, 2009 05:37 EDT
By Niklas Magnusson

Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Saab Automobile, Europe’s worst- performing carmaker this year, is staking its survival on gaining greater access to the Chinese market after tying up with Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co.

Beijing Automotive plans to become a minority shareholder in the team buying Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab from General Motors Co. The group, set up by sports-car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB, said yesterday it will help unprofitable Saab find opportunities to expand in China and other markets abroad.

“Saab does need China, and needs good penetration in China,” said Stephen Pope, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London. “Everyone else is doing really well in China, and it is the only market where carmakers have a smile on their face these days.”

The agreement may unlock a growing market with sales of 12 million cars this year, almost 50 times larger than Saab’s home market, according to China’s top planning agency. Saab sold less than 900 cars in China last year. Saab plans to use Beijing Automotive’s sales network to sell its sedans and station wagons, will share technology with Beijing Automotive and may open Chinese assembly lines, Koenigsegg said yesterday.

Saab intends to capitalize on the expanding Chinese car market, one of the few bright spots in the global automotive industry, boosted by a growing economy. Gross domestic product in China may rise 9.5 percent in 2010 after an 8.3 percent gain in 2009, according to a Bloomberg survey of 22 economists last month. The Asian country, the world’s most populous, has 1.37 billion people, compared to Sweden’s population of 9.1 million.

Middle Class Desires
“The Chinese middle class is increasing, they want the same products as people in the western world enjoy and European luxury cars sell very well in China,” Matts Carlsson, managing director of the Goeteborg Management Institute, said. “This is a real smash-hit for Saab.”

Saab’s future has been in doubt since the automaker, which has been unprofitable for most of the 20 years it has been owned by GM, filed for bankruptcy protection in February after GM said it would cut ties. The uncertainty over Saab’s future contributed to a 58 percent sales plunge in Europe in the first half, the biggest decline among all automakers in the region, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association’s most recent statistics.

While GM reached an agreement to sell Saab to Koenigsegg in June, the consortium still lacked 3 billion kronor ($429 million) in private financing to be able to conclude the transaction. With Beijing Automotive joining the group, the gap has been closed, the sports-car maker’s founder Christian von Koenigsegg said yesterday. Koenigsegg still needs to secure a loan from the European Investment Bank as well as Swedish government guarantees for that loan to buy Saab.

Needed Financing
“First and foremost, the benefit for Saab is that Koenigsegg gets the financing it needs,” said Mike Tyndall, a European automotive analyst with Nomura Securities in London. “China is said to be the world’s largest car market this year, and is certainly going to be one of the largest going forward. On that basis, having access to the Beijing Automotive distribution network will definitely help.”

Beijing Automotive, which has partnerships in its home market with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG, sold 582,215 vehicles in the first half. The company, rejected as a bidder for GM’s Opel unit earlier this year, is targeting 1.13 million deliveries in 2009.

“Beijing Automotive produces cars in large series, they have that knowledge, and there is also a possibility of production in China for Saab,” Christer Karlsson, a professor at the Copenhagen Business School, said by phone. “China is a strongly growing market.”

Sales Plan
Saab, which this year created a business plan based on worldwide sales of 130,000 cars annually, cannot succeed with access to the Chinese market alone, Pope said. Saab will also need to design “radically” different cars that are not based on models in GM’s portfolio, as they are currently, Pope said.

At Saab’s factory in Trollhaettan, 44 miles (70 kilometers) north-east from Gothenburg, workers welcomed Beijing Automotive’s participation in Koenigsegg’s bid.

“The members I have spoken to are very pleased,” Anette Hellgren, a trade union official and Saab board member, said by phone. “The Chinese market can become a fantastic opportunity for Saab.”



September 9, 2009 08:46 EDT (Bloomberg)
By Niklas Magnusson and Toby Alder

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Koenigsegg Group said Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. Ltd., the fastest-growing car manufacturer in China, will join the luxury sports-car maker’s planned acquisition of Saab Automobile from General Motors Co.

Beijing Automotive will become a minority shareholder in Koenigsegg Group, the Aengelholm, Sweden-based company said in a statement today. Beijing Automotive and Koenigsegg plan jointly to find growth opportunities in the Chinese and international markets for Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab, it said.

Chinese carmakers have been looking at investing in Europe this year to gain sales and technology. Beijing Automotive had also expressed interest in GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest privately owned carmaker, said yesterday its parent is involved in a possible bid to buy all of Ford Motor Co.’s Volvo Cars unit in Sweden.

“China is a big market and previous partnerships with Chinese companies have been good experiences,” Swedish Industry Minister Maud Olofsson told reporters in Stockholm today. “We will make a strict assessment of the business plan” for the Koenigsegg transaction.

GM sought a buyer for Saab when the Swedish unit, which has been unprofitable for most of the two decades that the Detroit- based company has owned it, was granted protection from creditors in February. GM reached an agreement in June to sell the division to Koenigsegg Group.

The bidding team is led by Augie Fabela, a U.S.-based co- founder of OAO VimpelCom, Russia’s second-largest mobile-phone company. The group includes closely held Koenigsegg Automotive AB, the maker of the $1.2 million CCXR high-performance sports car, as well as Baard Eker, a Norwegian industrial-design entrepreneur.

Saab said yesterday that Koenigsegg had raised the funds needed for the purchase after a new investor helped fill a $400 million financing gap. Completion of the sale to the Koenigsegg team is tied to Saab getting $600 million in funding from the European Investment Bank backed by Swedish state guarantees, as well as transitional assistance from GM.

“This is an important step on the journey toward a new Saab,” Christian von Koenigsegg, the sports-car manufacturer’s founder, said in today’s statement. “Koenigsegg is now focusing on the ongoing talks with the Swedish debt office” about the proposed state guarantees for the EIB lending.



14:38 September 8th, 2009 (Reuters Blogs)
Posted by: Jonathan Ford

Less by the hour if there is any truth to the story in Reuters that China’s SAIC is considering funding the iconic Swedish car brand’s buy-out from GM.

The deal, announced in August, was originally supposed to be a patriotic flag-waving exercise, in which a tiny Swedish supercar maker, Koenigsegg, would “repatriate” Saab from American control. The Opelisation of the Saab range would be stopped. A new generation of quirky cars designed by Nordic designers in square specs would be manufactured at the company’s historic (and splendidly named) Trollhattan factory. Saabs would again be as Swedish as a meatball or an Ikea “Billy” bookcase.

A moving vision? Certainly. But how practical given Koenigsegg’s small size? Well, about as practical as owning an insanely fast Koenigsegg car in Sweden, where the speed limit is 60kph. Incidently Koenigsegg sells less than two dozen cars a year (although they are quite pricey), while Saab sells closer to 100,000.

Anyway, that as I say was the vision. What appears to be emerging seems more like a foreign-funded buy-out of Saab from GM. Assuming SAIC makes it, the Chinese group’s 3 billion kronor investment ($410 million) should help to unlock Swedish government support in the form of guarantees of some 400 million in European Investment Bank loans. That in turn will allow the company to fund a business plan that involves continuing to source components from GM.

And it will be interesting to see what SAIC gets in return for any cash it puts up. The company has a fairly chequered history of investing overseas. It made a total pigs ear of its investment in Ssangyong of Korea - although its punt on MG Rover has turned out a bit better.



Last Updated: September 8, 2009 05:54 EDT (Bloomberg)
By Kim McLaughlin

Sept. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Koenigsegg Group has raised the funds needed for its purchase of Saab Automobile from General Motors Co. after a new investor filled a $400 million financing gap, according to the U.S. carmaker’s Swedish unit.

“We have filed a new business plan with the Swedish government where the financing is complete,” Saab Automobile spokesman Eric Geers said by telephone today. He declined to identify the investor.

SAIC Motor Corp., China’s largest carmaker, is Koenigsegg’s new partner, Dagens Industri reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. GM, which has ventures with SAIC in China, has been seeking a buyer for Saab since February, when the Swedish unit was granted protection from creditors.

Zhu Xiangjun, a spokeswoman for SAIC, said the Chinese carmaker doesn’t comment on speculation. Koenigsegg spokeswoman Halldora von Koenigsegg didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Completion of the sale of Saab to the Koenigsegg consortium is tied to the unit getting funding from the European Investment Bank backed by Swedish state guarantees, as well as transitional assistance from GM, the Detroit-based carmaker said Aug. 18.

Koenigsegg, the maker of $1.2 million sports cars, still needs to secure additional funding to complete Saab’s purchase, people familiar with the situation have said.

Saab, which exited reorganization last month, plans to reveal the identity of Koenigsegg’s backer and details of the financing before the Frankfurt International Motor Show, which starts Sept. 17, a person familiar with the matter said today.



Last Updated: August 18, 2009 09:35 EDT (Bloomberg)
By Niklas Magnusson

-- Koenigsegg Automotive AB, the Swedish maker of $1.2 million sports cars, agreed to buy Saab Automobile from General Motors Co. by the end of the year to become a mass-market manufacturer.

Completion of Saab’s sale to Koenigsegg and investment partners is tied to the unit getting funding from the European Investment Bank backed by Swedish state guarantees, as well as transitional assistance from Detroit-based GM, the U.S. carmaker said today in a statement. Sweden said the transaction still requires “several steps” before winning its backing.

Taking over Saab would catapult Aengelholm-based Koenigsegg from its hand-built supercar niche into the volume-car market, adding sedans and station wagons to a lineup of models capable of reaching speeds of close to 400 kilometers (250 miles) an hour. GM said in June that Saab’s sale depends on the division receiving a $600 million loan from the EIB.

“Today’s deal is in a sense a political statement that puts pressure on the government to solve the financing gap,” Matts Carlsson, managing director of Goeteborg Management Institute AB near Gothenburg, Sweden, said today. “Over the next one to two months, the government will find it increasingly difficult to say ‘no’ to more aid or financial backing.”

Koenigsegg, the maker of the CCX and CCXR models, still must secure about $300 million in funding to complete Saab’s purchase, two people familiar with the situation said yesterday. Sweden’s government has reaffirmed a commitment to guarantee the proposed $600 million EIB loan, while Koenigsegg and GM together would contribute about $500 million in capital, one of the people said.

“It is good that the ownership question for Saab now gets clearer but there are still several steps left before it is completed,” Swedish Industry Ministry State Secretary Joeran Haegglund said today in a statement. “Koenigsegg Group has to provide further private capital and negotiate about loans with the EIB as well as agreeing with the National Debt Office about the terms of potential state credit guarantees.”

The sports-car maker has secured 70 percent of the financing it needs for the purchase and wants the government to guarantee or provide a bridge loan secured by Saab’s assets to raise the remainder in the next few months, Chief Executive Officer Christian von Koenigsegg said by telephone today. The bridge loan would be in addition to the $600 million EIB lending that Koenigsegg wants Sweden to guarantee.

Saab is “quite a solid company with a lot of resources and low amount of debt,” von Koenigsegg said, adding that the carmaker is likely to return to profit by 2012 at the latest. Financial-market volatility means that securing an asset-backed bridge loan will be difficult “without some kind of government backup or support.”

The GM division traces its origins to Svenska Aeroplan AB, a planemaker founded in 1937 that’s now a separate aerospace company known as Saab AB. The Trollhaettan, Sweden-based carmaker has been unprofitable for most of the 20 years that GM has owned it.

GM has been looking for a buyer for Saab since February, when the division was granted protection from creditors as the financially struggling U.S. parent company said it was breaking ties in a reorganization.

Saab received expressions of interest from about 30 suitors. Closely held Koenigsegg, which was founded by its CEO in 1994, was chosen as preferred bidder on June 16 after Saab reached an agreement with creditors to write down its debt by 75 percent. Saab owed about 10.6 billion kronor ($1.46 billion) in April, including 9.6 billion kronor to GM.

Saab predicted in April that it will make fewer cars in 2009 and 2010 than the 93,000 produced last year, and estimated that it must build 130,000 autos a year to break even. Von Koenigsegg said today that Saab could reach break-even building as few as 100,000 vehicles annually.

GM and Saab will continue to share technology and services “during a defined time period,” the U.S. company said today, without giving specifics.

“This agreement is a step in the right direction,” said Carlsson of the Goeteborg Management Institute. “They still lack about 3 billion kronor in financing and some technical problems with their mutual platforms need to be addressed, but I do think they will be able to tie the knot in the end.”

GM also said that Saab, which has a workforce of about 4,100 employees, will exit bankruptcy shortly.

“It’s very positive that we have come so far on the journey we’ve embarked on, and it’s an important milestone that we’re getting out of reorganization and will get an owner that takes over all of GM’s stake,” Paul Aakerlund, head of the IF Metall labor union at Saab, said in a phone interview today. “We have come a good way, and it would surprise us very much if the government doesn’t provide guarantees.”



Fri Aug 7, 2009 11:47am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish government has received information on a possible pullout of investors backing a deal by luxury car maker Koenigsegg to buy Saab Automobile, and is making further checks, a government official said on Friday.

"We have received some information, yes, saying that," said Joran Hagglund, state secretary for Sweden's industry ministry. "We haven't managed to confirm it ourselves with Koenigsegg. We are keen to get this confirmed and are chasing them."

The question arose after a report on Friday in a regional Swedish daily, Goteborgs-Posten, that said the Saab deal was at risk due to investors possibly pulling out.

Hagglund declined to say where the government's information came from or whether it concerned one or more investors. "But there is nothing, as far as we have understood, that would prevent or complicate a deal between Koenigsegg and GM."

Swedish niche sportscar maker Koenigsegg struck an accord in June to buy Saab from General Motors GM.UL, backed by U.S. and Norwegian investors. The deal is set to close by the end of the third quarter.

Koenigsegg spokeswoman Halldora von Koenigsegg declined to comment on questions regarding investors possibly pulling out.

"Ownership questions are detailed information that I don't have the possibility to comment on today," she said. "What I can say is that our negotiations with GM are proceeding according to plan."

Norwegian entrepreneur Bard Eker, who owns part of Koenigsegg through his holding company Eker Group AS, was not immediately available for comment.

Saab is currently under creditor protection.

The Swedish state is negotiating with Koenigsegg about whether to guarantee a possible European Investment Bank loan that would form part of the financing for the acquisition.

Hagglund said the government remained in the dark on how much Koenigsegg and its financial backers would invest in Saab, and he expected an update "shortly" on Koenigsegg's business plan.

He said the EIB was likely to decide on a possible loan to Saab by end-September.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; editing by Simon Jessop)


Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:14am EDT

VISBY, Sweden (Reuters) - Saab Automobile could increase production to meet higher demand if it secured bridge financing from the government, the struggling Swedish carmaker's chief executive said on Tuesday.

Jan Ake Jonsson also told journalists on the sidelines of a conference on the island of Gotland the loss-making unit of bankrupt U.S. carmaker General Motors had enough liquidity to last it through the grace period under creditor protection granted it by a Swedish court.

Niche sportscar maker Koenigsegg earlier this month agreed a preliminary deal to take over Saab, backed by Norwegian and U.S. investors.

"We are discussing bridge loans," Jonsson said.

"If we were to get that kind of financing that would mean we could increase production. We have the demand and we would of course have to rehire a number of individuals."

Financing for the Koenigsegg deal included an expected $600 million in loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) guaranteed by the Swedish state, which so far has been reluctant to extend aid to what is an iconic Swedish brand.

"We are in intensive discussions with the EIB about financing," Jonsson said.

"Depending on the time horizon, we will take initiatives to hold on to our money so that we manage until the financing becomes clear, so I feel pretty calm on this issue."

Saab has said it needs $1 billion to help it restructure and launch new models. Jonsson said that if negotiations with the EIB proved lengthy, the company would need to adjust its costs.

"It would mean for example that we can't raise production," he added.

Swedish Industry Minister Maud Olofsson said in a Reuters interview last week that the government remained in the dark on how much Koenigsegg and its financial backers would invest in Saab, and that state guarantees might not be needed.

While holding out the prospect of obtaining loan guarantees, the Swedish government said in May Saab might also qualify for a bridging loan from the state if that proved necessary to smooth the transition to a new owner.

(Reporting by Johan Sennero; writing by Niklas Pollard; editing by John Stonestreet)



http://autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/200906230902/CARNEWS/906239997

By JULIAN RENDELL

Saab is planning a return to its old-brand values with an extended model range as it prepares for a new, independent future owned by a joint U.S.-Scandinavian investment team.

Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg grabbed headlines as the buyer from General Motors, but Koenigsegg is just one of at least three major investors. The others are West Coast entrepreneur Mark Bishop and Norwegian holding company Eker Group.

So far, Christian von Koenigsegg has been the consortium’s point man on the deal, but he has given little detail on exactly how the new Saab will be organized and financed, apart from hinting that the GM-led Saab lost its brand focus.

What we do know is that there is a $600 million loan on the table from the European Bank and that GM has pledged an additional $500 million, to fuel future product development. This will revolve around a model range based on three GM platforms for the next decade--Epsilon 2 for the next 9-5, Theta/Epsilon 2 for the all-new 9-4X and Delta 2 for the next 9-3.

Meanwhile, the Swedes will feed back to Detroit their expertise on hybrids and the cross-wheel-drive AWD transmission. The sophisticated Haldex setup is now in the 2010 Cadillac SRX, due out in late July. The primary focus, however, is to get the 9-5 sedan into production by next summer. That can’t come a day too soon, since the current 9-5 is 13 years old.

But starting production--in Sweden--could prove to be a major hurdle. The 9-5 is a long-wheelbase version of the new Opel Insignia, which is partially tooled for assembly at Opel’s plant in Russelsheim, Germany. Those production lines will have to be taken apart, transported from Germany and rebuilt in Sweden.

Saab’s business plan is reasonable, based on minimum production of 130,000 units a year, or about what Saab built in 2006. Strong profitability will come at 150,000 units or more. The company sold 93,000 cars in 2008.

Cutting the GM apron strings should clean up Saab’s financial position. Last year, GM’s accountants said Saab lost $384 million, but the word from Sweden is that money from sales in the States never came back to the homeland, making the company’s financial position look worse than it really was.

Will the future be so kind? Porsche has made a great business out of being a profitable car company with sales of 100,000 cars per year, but it sells most of its cars with higher sticker prices than Saab.

If Saab can get its post-GM products right--even if they are based on GM platforms--the company could be set up for a highly successful future.



Wed Jun 18, 2009

Intriguing Info #1

AND

Intriguing Info #2

TTAC reader and marketing consultant John Charles of Stockholm, Sweden, was gracious enough to send us some more info on investor Mark Bishop, the man who would be king of Saab.

Hi, I read your very interesting piece on Mark Bishop and SAAB. However you (unintentionally, I imagine) missed out a few details. I have found out that Bishop was involved as President of the rather shady Quick Loan Funding. It is understandable that Bishop chooses not to mention his time at QLF in his CV.

Quick Loan has been accused of predatory lending, deceptive underwriting and fraud in at least eight lawsuits. In addition, Department of Corporations records show 33 complaints against Quick Loan, most alleging unfair business practices. Most of the lawsuits were settled out of court. And state regulators have never disciplined Quick Loan. The OC Register mentions Mark Bishop being involved in QLF as late as August 2007.

Another position held by Bishop: President at IMPAC (prior to QLF). He left IMPAC just in time; ahead of a class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of all purchasers of securities of Impac Mortgage Holdings, Inc. from May 10, 2006, through August 15, 2007. The plaintiff alleged Impac and “certain of its officers and directors” with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

However, when one looks at the people at his new venture ABSIG all the names except Tom Epperson were “officers and directors” at IMPAC. It looks like they are getting together again to do some BIG business. Tom Epperson, by the way, was picked up from Quick Loan Funding. Fact remains: Bishop has always been finding himself in very shady businesses. Bad luck or bad judgement? Only time will tell.

Sweden has a few unpleasant memories of creative take-overs, the most recent being Trustor. British businessman Lord Moyne fronted the purchase of the majority stake in Trustor. Trustor’s own money was illegally used to finance the purchase. Shortly afterwards, it became clear that the company had been subject to a major fraud and that Lord Moyne had not invested a penny.

So far no photo of Mark Bishop has been published in Swedish press. My guess is CEO Mark Bishop is the (bald) guy in the middle of photo of the old IMPAC+QLF friends now re-grouping in ABSIG and maybe heading for SAAB. All we need to hear now: creative car-enthusiast Daniel Sadek of QLF is the new VP in a future Koenigsegg-SAAB.



Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:30am EDT
By Johan Ahlander

VANERSBORG, Sweden (Reuters) - Swedish carmaker Saab secured a key court ruling on Wednesday to cut billions of crowns in debt, paving the way for its proposed takeover by local sportscar maker Koenigsegg.

The ruling came after owner General Motors, Saab's biggest creditor, said on Tuesday it had struck a preliminary deal to sell Saab Automobile to Koenigsegg.

The court in Vanersborg, close to Saab's headquarters in southwest Sweden, approved the 75 percent writedown of Saab's more than 10 billion Swedish crowns ($1.28 billion) of debt after a vast majority of creditors gave the green light to the proposal earlier on Wednesday.

Saab filed for protection from creditors in February after its now bankrupt U.S. parent, to whom Saab owes most of its debt, said it would cut ties to the brand by the year-end.

Saab's chief executive Jan Ake Jonsson told a news conference after the court hearing the company had sufficient funds for it to complete the restructuring of its business and praised its much smaller prospective new owner.

The deal between the two carmakers, which is expected to close in the third quarter, is one of the most unlikely in automotive history -- Koenigsegg made 18 cars last year, Saab more than 93,000.

"Koenigsegg has an incredible cutting edge know-how in several areas while Saab has a lot of cutting edge know-how in other areas," Jonsson said.

While Saab has made a name building safe and sturdy saloons, Koenigsegg appeals to customers who are willing to spend around $1 million on a car that is capable of speeds of more than 395 kilometers (245 miles) an hour.

BUSINESS PLANS STAND

Saab hopes a concentration of production and the launch of new models will boost capacity utilization at the carmaker, while cost cuts are seen lowering its breakeven level to an annual production rate of 130,000 vehicles.

But the company has forecast volumes will fall both this year and the next from the 93,000 units manufactured in 2008, though it has said it sees a positive cash flow in 2011.

"The new group that we have written an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with intends to carry out the business plan we have been working on for quite some time," Jansson said.

"It is based on continuing along the road we've taken by readying the new models we pretty much have completed. We'll continue strengthening our brand and continue efforts to boost efficiency in order to reach a positive cash flow in the future," he added.

General Motors said the deal included an expected $600 million of loans from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish government. Other terms were not disclosed.

Jonsson said he was optimistic about securing the loan guarantees. "Since the government has given the debt office the authorization, I assume that all the work we've done ... will generate a positive result in terms of loans and loan guarantees," he said. Koenigsegg was founded in 1994 by Christian von Koenigsegg. A new company called Koenigsegg Group -- with backing from other investors including Norwegian entrepreneur Bard Eker and U.S. investor Mark Bishop -- has been formed for the takeover.

($1=7.816 Swedish crowns)

(Writing by Veronica Ek; Editing by Greg Mahlich)



From Times Online - June 16, 2009
By Elizabeth Judge

More than 3000 UK jobs have been saved following the sale of Saab, the Swedish unit of General Motors (GM), the bankrupt US car giant, to a consortium headed by Konenigsegg, a luxury car maker.

General Motors Europe said a preliminary agreement had been reached to sell the division to a group led by Konengisegg, a Swedish sportscar maker which employs just 45 people. It declined to reveal the identity of the other investors.

Saab, one of Sweden's best-known brands, employs 3,400 people in the country. Around 3,000 people are employed at Saab's 87 UK dealerships and 100 at its UK headquarters.

GM Europe said the sale is expected to close by the end of the third quarter. The deal will be funded, in part, by an expected $600 million from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish Government.

However, the Swedish Government maintained the issue of financing had not been resolved. Joran Hagglund, state secretary for Sweden's industry ministry, said: "We do not yet know if Koenigsegg group will need loan guarantees or not."

Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, said: "This is yet another significant step in the reinvention of GM and its European operations. Closing this deal represents the best chance for Saab to emerge a stronger company."

Saab, which is based in Trollhattan, southern Sweden, was put up for sale by its bankrupt US parent earlier this year. It claimed to have had approaches from more than 20 potential bidders although a short-list of two or three buyers had emerged in recent weeks.

The group has been making cars since 1949 and has been loss-making since 2001. Last year, Saab's sales fell 25 per cent to 93,295 vehicles - 1.1 per cent of GM's total output.

Swedish unions feared that if Saab collapsed, the jobs toll would hit 15,000 from losses in the supply chain and related activities.

Richard Williams, owner of Bristol’s Williams Automobiles, one of Saab's largest authorised repairers in the UK, said: "This is excellent news and I think it will be an excellent future for Saab The key thing is whether the consortium has the resources to do this."



Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:50am EDT
By Veronica Ek and Sven Nordenstam

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Koenigsegg, a niche manufacturer of some of the world's fastest and most expensive sports cars, has struck a deal to buy loss-making Saab Automobile from General Motors, the companies said on Tuesday.

In one of the most unlikely pairings in automotive history, the tiny sports car firm of 45 staff is expected to take over a company that employs around 3,400, a cherished Swedish brand that became a national icon for stability and reliability.

GM Europe said on its website the deal, set to close by the end of the third quarter, includes an expected $600 million of financing from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish government. Other terms were not disclosed.

"Additional support is to be provided by GM and Koenigsegg Group AB to fund Saab's operations and product program investments. This includes plans to launch several new products that are in the final stages of development," GM Europe said.

Like its U.S. parent, Saab has been in bankruptcy protection. It has said it needs $1 billion to see it through the crisis and has asked creditors to write off 75 percent of its 10.6 billion crown ($1.4 billion) debt, most of which is owed to GM.

Koenigsegg, which produces powerful roadcars that cost around $1 million, came out of nowhere to emerge as a front-runner to buy Saab.

But analysts are skeptical a tie-up makes sense, noting that Christian von Koenigsegg, founder of the firm bearing his name, has no evident experience owning or running a firm so large.

Last year Koenigsegg made 18 cars, Saab more than 93,000.

"There are no economies of scale between Saab and Koenigsegg. This is a constellation of buyers that probably have different interests than GM, which was driven by volume," said Mikael Wickelgren, an automotive expert at Skovde University, in southwestern Sweden not far from Saab's headquarters.

"This will be a business where one would assume that the owners want to chisel out a personality for Saab. The logic would be in the special and unique. Otherwise I cannot understand this deal."

Koenigsegg has backing from Norwegian entrepreneur Bard Eker, whose holding company owns 49 percent of the car maker.

Halldora von Koenigsegg, spokeswoman for the company and wife of its founder, said a memorandum of understanding had been signed but declined to comment further.

TWO DECADES UNDER GM

The deal would see Saab, which was put up for sale earlier this year, emerge from two decades under its U.S. parent. GM is already in the middle of offloading two other brands -- Saturn and its Hummer SUV line -- as it works to restructure its operations in bankruptcy.

Saab's roughly 220 U.S. dealerships have until Friday to sign an agreement which allow their franchises to be transferred to a new owner, a person familiar with the matter said. Dealers have been asked to prepare for an orderly wind-down should the automaker be unable to close a deal to sell the brand.

While Saab is known for its appeal to safety-conscious but slightly sporty family drivers, Koenigsegg caters for clients who arrive in private jets at the firm's factory, which boasts its own airstrip.

Christian von Koenigsegg, who founded his firm 15 years ago when he was 22, is known in the industry as a quality-obsessed car enthusiast as opposed to a businessman.

But Saab and Koenigsegg do share a history of technological innovation. Koenigsegg has patented some of his own gadgetry while Saab created a sensation in the 1970s with the use of turbo technology in everyday cars.

Now Saab plans to overhaul production and launch new models while absorbing expected losses of about 3 billion Swedish crowns ($382 million) this year. GM plans to narrow its focus to the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands under a plan that would transfer majority control to the U.S. government.

An EIB official said its board needed to have key information some six weeks before a meeting. "That means we will not be able to have it ready before the meeting in July, and the next meeting is in September," said Mats Gunnarsson, senior adviser to the EIB management committee.

Joran Hagglund, state secretary for Sweden's industry ministry, told Reuters: "We do not yet know if Koenigsegg group will need loan guarantees or not."

Nonetheless, Industry Minister Maud Olofsson welcomed the news as did Saab worker representatives. She said Saab staff and other residents in the town of Trollhattan, where Saab is headquartered, had been waiting for just a development.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki and Soyoung Kim in Detroit)
(Writing by Adam Cox; Editing by Greg Mahlich, John Stonestreet)

($1=7.850 Swedish crowns)



Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:02am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Carmaker Saab said on Monday it was likely to unveil its new owner this week, and that three quarters of its creditors had agreed to a proposed writedown of the loss-making General Motors brand's debt.

A source told Reuters last week luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and Norwegian investors had reached a preliminary agreement to buy Saab Automobile, which was put up for sale by its now bankrupt U.S. parent earlier this year.

A Saab spokeswoman said an announcement should come soon.

"I think that during this week, chances are good. It could be anytime now," spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said.

Saab, which first sought protection from creditors in February and was granted an extension until August 20 to get time to restructure and line up a new owner, said more than 80 percent of its creditors had agreed to write down the value of their Saab debt.

The Swedish carmaker has said it needs $1 billion in financing to see it through the crisis and has asked creditors to write off 75 percent of the company's 10.6 billion crown ($1.4 billion) debt, most of which is owed to GM.

Saab needs support from 75 percent of creditors, as well as from creditors holding 75 percent of its debt, for the writedown to be carried out, a process that is to be approved by a Swedish district court on Wednesday.

"We are well above that, which is good. That makes Wednesday more or less a formality," Gustavs said.

The Swedish government said last week it had authorized the debt office to begin talks with the General Motors unit on state loan guarantees.

(Reporting by Veronica Ek; editing by John Stonestreet)



Published: 14 Jun 09 08:27 CET
http://www.thelocal.se/20056/20090614/

Koenigsegg, the Swedish luxury sports carmaker set to buy Saab Automobile from US firm General Motors, is confident that the company can be rescued, the firm's co-owner said on Saturday.

GM, which has now filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States, placed Saab on the market in February as part of its attempts to slim down its brand range and return to profitability.

A Sveriges Television (SVT) report on Thursday said Koenigsegg and a group of Norwegian investors had signed a letter of intent to buy Saab.

Bård Eker, whose holding company Eker Group holds a 49 percent stake in Koenigsegg, confirmed his interest in the Swedish automaker in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

"We think it is possible and we have several good solutions to bring with us into Saab," Eker said.

Commentators in Sweden have questioned whether Koenigsegg, which produces just 18 high-end sports car a year and employs only 45 people, would have the financial muscle or industrial know-how to run Saab.

Founded in 1994 by Swedish businessman Christian von Koenigsegg, the company posted a turnover of 106 million kroner (10 million euros, 13 million dollars) in 2008.

Eker told Dagbladet that there were "several investors" backing the bid.

"But I don't want to comment on the amount of money and who is involved," he said. "I want to make one thing clear. We are not buying Saab just to chop it up. That's not what we do."

The Eker Group was unavailable for comment and Saab spokesman Joe Oliver refused to comment.

GM also kept silent.

"We're not making any comment at this time. We continue to work towards a resolution for the sale of Saab," said GM Europe spokesman Chris Preuss.

Saab sold 93,000 cars worldwide in 2008, according to its website.

It owes 9.7 billion kronor ($1.3 billion, 924 million euros) to GM - its largest individual creditor - as well as 347 million kronor to the Swedish government. Other creditors are owed 647 million kronor.

The automaker employs about 3,400 people in Sweden. Including suppliers, some 15,000 jobs in the country are believed to be at risk if the company were to disappear.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)



Published: 12 Jun 09 10:48 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/20030/20090612/

Despite the excitement generated by Thursday’s news that Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg was set to buy Saab, a number of automotive journalists in Sweden remain sceptical.

“It sounds like a joke,” writes Aftonbladet’s automotive reporter Robert Collin.

Collin admits that 36-year-old Christian von Koenigsegg, who in 1994 founded the company which makes about twenty €1 million ($1.4 million) deluxe sports cars a year, is a man of many talents.

However, the seasoned observer of the Swedish auto world doubts that the entrepreneur has the ability to take on the challenge of managing Saab.

“I don’t think Saab will survive,” he continues.

Collin’s comments come following a report by Sveriges Television (SVT) on Thursday that luxury sports car maker Koenigsegg will buy Saab Automobile from US giant General Motors with the backing of Norwegian investors.

The buyers have signed a letter of intention to buy Saab, SVT said on its website, citing anonymous sources and naming Koenigsegg, adding that the negotiations could last for months.

“We are getting close to a deal done, but there are some final steps to be taken,” a source close to the matter told AFP, but would not confirm the identity of the leading bidder.

Both Saab and its parent company GM declined comment on the report.

According to Lasse Svärd with Dagens Nyheter (DN), the marriage of Saab and Koenigsegg is a positive development for Saab, at least in the short-term, as it signals that things are finally moving forward for the troubled Swedish brand after months of uncertainty.

“Saab needs to quickly find some peace and quiet with a far-sighted owner that can supply the company with the resources to help it create new models,” he told DN.

But Svärd stopped short of embracing Koenigsegg as an ideal owner for Saab, which owes 9.7 billion kronor ($1.3 billion) to GM -- its largest individual creditor -- as well as 347 million kronor to the Swedish government. Other creditors are owed 647 million kronor.

“It’s really a hard question to answer. Spontaneously, my answer is no, at least it’s hard to see how it will all work,” he said when asked if the exclusive sportscar manufacturer was the right partner to give Saab the lift it needs.

Saab has not officially named its suitors but British daily The Financial Times had previously named Koenigsegg plus two other bidders, the US investment firms Renco and Merbanco.

Media reports had also said Italy's Fiat was keen on buying Saab, but observers say such a move is now unlikely because of Fiat's failure to acquire GM's other European brand Opel.

Opel and its sister marque, Vauxhall, share a lot of technology with Saab.

The Saab automaker sold 93,000 cars worldwide in 2008, according to its website.

Expressen’s automotive reporter Jan-Erik Berggren was more direct in expressing his concerns about Koenigsegg’s suitability for Saab, despite the professed excitement from Saab enthusiasts, who for months have expressed their keenness for a Saab- Koenigsegg tie-up on blogs and internet forums.

“For them, Koenigsegg is like a wet dream,” writes Berggren.

“But it’s time for them to wake up.”

According to Berggren, it’s “totally unrealistic” that a company with a turnover of around 100 million kronor per year ($13 million) could pull off a deal expected to be worth 5 to 10 billion kronor, no matter how much money the group of Norwegian investors rumoured to be behind the deal have in their pockets.

However, if the two companies can survive their first five or six years together, Berggren admitted that may be enough to prove the deal can succeed in the long-term as well.

Saab Automobile employs about 3,400 people in Sweden. Including suppliers, some 15,000 jobs in the country are believed to be at risk if the company were to disappear.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)



Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:01pm EDT
By Peter Levring and Anna Ringstrom

ANGELHOLM, Sweden (Reuters) - Sweden's Saab Automobile, renowned for stodgy family sedans, may soon be in the hands of a man who makes some of the world's sexiest sports cars.

If, as people familiar with the situation say, tiny Swedish niche player Koenigsegg is to buy the money-losing Saab from bankrupt General Motors, there will have been no greater mismatch since David sized up Goliath.

How the two will fit is an open question, as they are at opposite ends of the industry spectrum, but the union would be an extraordinary achievement for a firm that began 15 years ago based almost entirely on a very young man's passion.

Christian von Koenigsegg, who has dreamed of making cars since he was five, founded the company when he was 22.

Now, his clients are people who fly jets to the firm's headquarters -- which has its own runway -- and are ready to splash out $1 million to drive away in a vehicle that is among the speediest consumer cars on the planet.

"It's mostly people who have a multi-car garage; and by that I don't mean two or three cars, I mean maybe 10 cars or more. That's a typical Koenigsegg customer," said Charlie Mannerfeldt, the founder of the sole Koenigsegg retailer in Sweden.

Mannerfeldt said his dealership, located in the posh Stockholm suburb of Djursholm, has sold three Koenigsegg cars in the past three years. All three sales were in Sweden, though he said customers can be found all over the world. Many are in the Middle East or the United States.

Halldora von Koenigsegg, Christian's wife, is the company spokeswoman and one of its 45 staff. She declined to comment on whether a deal was in the works. But from the floor of a showroom beside a cobalt-blue hot-rod, she enthused about the Koenigsegg vision. "We are a company that is focused on the big picture, on the pleasure of driving and on testing limits," she said.

Her husband began his career selling frozen chickens, perfume and plastic bags before he was able to realize his dream of making gleaming, superfast machines.

With financial backing from Norwegian entrepreneur and kindred spirit Bard Eker, Koenigsegg is said to be ready to move out of the niche market and into the big league. The troubles at Saab and its U.S. parent may have offered the perfect route.

FROM MOPEDS TO MOGULS

According to the company website, Christian von Koenigsegg had an early interest in technology.

"As a teen-ager he was known as the best moped tuner in town," the site said. He went on to patent technologies with intriguing names such as the "Rocket Catalytic Converter" or the "Supercharger Response/Relief system," while seeking out the richest people in the world as his clients.

One new customer, according to media reports, is soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who knows a thing or two about high-priced sporty goods, as he prepares for a record-setting transfer deal from Manchester United to Real Madrid.

The Koenigsegg factory is in Angelholm, a small town in the southwest of Sweden, on the grounds of what was once the home of a Swedish Air Force wing that flew Saab Gripens from the site.

Last year, Halldora von Koenigsegg said, the factory's output was just 18 cars, a figure Saab would match every couple of hours.

"There are not so many companies like ours," she said.

(Writing by Anna Ringstrom, additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa, Niklas Pollard and Mia Shanley, editing by Will Waterman)



Fri Jun 12, 2009 9:18am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - General Motors is close to selling loss-making Swedish unit Saab after tiny supercar maker Koenigsegg agreed to ride to the rescue, a source familiar with the talks told Reuters.

A deal would put a company of less than 50 employees turning out a handful of $1 million supercars in charge of Saab, which produces that many family cars every hour.

Sweden would also likely join other governments backing swift rescues of their biggest car companies with state guarantees to help save jobs and one of the country's biggest brand names.

Koenigsegg, whose slinky supercars can top 400 km/h (240 mph) and rank in Forbes magazine's list of the world's 10 most beautiful cars, is backed by Norwegian investors, a source told Reuters on Thursday.

The two sides have signed a letter of intent and financing has been agreed, leaving only minor issues to be resolved, the source said.

Saab said on its website on Friday that new ownership would be finalized in the early summer and Swedish television reported that a preliminary deal was now with the U.S. Treasury Department with further information expected to be released next week.

SURPRISING PARTNERS

Tough times are producing some surprising partnerships, including GM's tentative deal this month to sell Hummer, the expensive, gas-guzzling vehicle of choice for musicians and movie stars, to Sichuan Tengzhong, a Chinese company that makes cement mixers.

Italian maker Fiat, which quit the U.S. market in 1983, is set to return under a new partnership with Chrysler while parts maker Magna International is in talks to buy GM's European operations centred on Germany's Opel.

"I'm concerned it doesn't have the scale or expertise to exist as a standalone business," said Nomura analyst Michael Tyndall regarding Koenigsegg.

Saab has not posted a profit in a decade.

"I struggle to see how smaller brands can exist as standalone operations -- the industry doesn't have a great track record on this," said Tyndall.

The global recession has slashed demand for cars and sent U.S. giants GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, leaving Ford as the only one of the so-called Big Three not needing government aid.

Koenigsegg hails from the other end of the automotive spectrum, a tiny firm operating out of an aircraft hangar set up in 1994 by young entrepreneur Christian von Koenigsegg who pocketed some of his fortune selling frozen chickens.

Saab's future could see it turn into a much smaller, niche player, according to Mikael Wickelgren, a vehicle expert lecturer at the University of Skovde, Sweden..

"Saab probably would move toward more specialised, niche cars for a smaller customer base," said Wickelgren.

"It is a strategy that one has actually heard Saab speak of, but which has been difficult to achieve in a GM context. GM only thinks about volumes."

Saab produced nearly 100,000 cars off last year, about 1 percent of GM's global output.

GM put the company up for sale earlier this year and held talks with a number of potential buyers, including Fiat and Chinese automakers. Talks narrowed to two or three unnamed bidders in recent weeks.



Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:33pm EDT

By Sven Nordenstam

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and Norwegian investors have struck a preliminary deal to buy General Motors' Swedish unit Saab, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The source told Reuters a letter of intent had been signed between the parties and said the financing of the deal had been agreed, leaving only minor issues to be resolved.

"The deal is there now and a few minor details remain," said the source, who declined to be identified.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers declined to comment on the report, saying the carmarker was "in the final stages of negotiations" and was still targeting a sale by early July.

Swedish television channel SVT, citing unnamed sources, reported the deal had been struck after intensive negotiations in Zurich, Switzerland. "Final negotiations about details on the deal will go on in the next months," SVT said on its website.

Saab Automobile, which was put up for sale by its now bankrupt U.S. parent earlier this year, had been in talks with two or three bidders in the past weeks with Deutsche Bank advising in the sales process.

The brand, whose sales comprised just over 1 percent of GM's total sales volume last year, has been hit hard by the economic downturn that has savaged sales on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saab, one of Sweden's best-known brands, has said it needs $1 billion of financing to help it overhaul production and launch new models while absorbing expected losses of about 3 billion crowns ($370 million) this year.

Koenigsegg, founded by Christian von Koenigsegg in 2004, makes luxury sportscars. The company's headquarters is located in Angelholm, in southern Sweden, which currently houses 45 full-time employees, according to its website.

The tiny vehicle maker, part-owned by Norwegian entrepreneur Bard Eker through his holding company Eker Group AS, had sales of 106 million crowns last year.

The Swedish government said on Thursday it had authorized the debt office to begin talks with Saab on state loan guarantees. "The decision means that the Debt Office can initiate negotiations with Saab, the EIB and the coming owner, once one is revealed, about terms for state guarantees," the government said in a statement.

The guarantees are needed for Saab to receive loans from the European Investment Bank to finance environmentally friendly vehicles.

Sweden has until now said it was not prepared to consider loan guarantees for Saab unless the carmaker finds a private investor to underwrite its business plan.

(Additional reporting by Veronica Ek and Mia Shanley in Stockholm and Richard Solem in Oslo; Writing by Niklas Pollard; Editing by David Cowell and Dan Lalor)



Tue Jun 9, 2009 8:37am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Three groups have entered bids for Saab, General Motor's Swedish car unit, and a preferred bidder is to be chosen by the end of this week, the Financial Times newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing sources.

The FT said Swedish luxury sportscar maker Koenigsegg and Ira Rennert's Renco Group were among the suitors, as well as Merbanco, a group of investors from the U.S. state of Wyoming.

GM is to finance the spin-off by $500 million in assets and cash, plus production equipment for a new Saab model as well as $150 million of cash already in Saab's account.

Under the deal, the new owner is to pay GM back if it succeeds in turning Saab around, the report said.

Cash amounts pledged by the three bidders vary, but it is smaller than the amount GM is contributing, the paper said.

The Swedish carmaker, which first sought protection from creditors in February, was granted an extension of its business reorganization until August 20 to line up a new owner and restructure. Saab has said it was hopeful a final deal could be agreed before mid-June.

(Editing by Dan Lalor)



Last Updated: June 3, 2009 05:53 EDT

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Saab Automobile, the Swedish automaker that’s been put up for sale by General Motors Corp., has two bidders left and will deepen talks on financing and the details of possible contracts with the suitors.

“We have narrowed down the list to two main candidates after choosing to end talks with the third candidate,” Saab Automobile spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said in a telephone interview today. She wouldn’t identify the suitors. Trollhattan, Sweden-based Saab plans to announce a preferred bidder within one to two weeks, she said.

Saab received protection from creditors in February after GM, the biggest U.S. carmaker, said it’s cutting ties with the unit. GM’s bankruptcy filing earlier this week doesn’t threaten Saab’s sale process, Gustavs said today. The Swedish carmaker is seeking an agreement with creditors to pay back 25 percent of what they are owed, and more than 75 percent of the 600 creditors with claims must accept the plan for it to succeed.

Negotiations with creditors to write down the debt owed by Saab will be completed “without any problems,” Gustavs said.

Discussions with the Swedish government on guarantees for loans from the European Investment Bank “have been going on continuously during this journey and we continue to describe the talks as constructive and positive,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Niklas Magnusson in Stockholm at nmagnusson1@bloomberg.net



Fri May 29, 2009 7:25am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A local Swedish court on Friday granted General Motors' loss-making unit Saab a further extension to its protection from creditors, giving it more time to restructure.

The Swedish carmaker, which first sought protection from creditors in February, was granted an extension until August 20 allowing it to line up a new owner and restructure its business.

"The business reorganisation of Saab Automobile Aktiebolag is authorized to continue, though at most to August 20, 2009," the court in Vanersborg, southwest Sweden, said in a document obtained by Reuters.

The extension came as General Motors, the No.1 U.S. automaker, moved closer to filing for bankruptcy.

Saab, which was put up for sale by its ailing parent earlier this year, said on Thursday that Saab and GM would present a preferred candidate out of three undisclosed remaining bidders within the coming weeks.

Swedish business daily Dagens Industri late on Thursday reported that the two front-runners were Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and U.S. financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group, with Italy's Fiat as the third suitor, citing undisclosed sources.

Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs on Friday declined to comment the report, but said she was satisfied with the court's decision to extent the reorganisation period.

"This means we can proceed to cope with the work at hand," she said, and repeated Saab was not worried that the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by its owner GM would disrupted its sale process.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Erica Billingham)



Thu May 28, 2009 6:03pm EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish luxury automaker Koenigsegg is among the remaining suitors of General Motors' loss-making unit Saab Automobile, a Swedish business daily reported on Thursday, citing undisclosed sources.

The other front-runner for Saab, which was granted protection from creditors earlier this year, is U.S. financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group, Dagens Industri reported on its website.

The third remaining suitor is Italian carmaker Fiat (FIA.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which is also in the running to take over another of GM's European units, Germany's Opel, the paper added.

Saab has said it has narrowed down a list of suitors to three and hopes to have a deal concluded in the coming weeks after its U.S. parent, which is facing bankruptcy, said earlier this year it would cut loose the brand by year-end.

"According to sources close to GM the toughest battle is expected between U.S. billionaire Ira Rennert and Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg," Dagens Industri said.

The newspaper also reported that Koenigsegg, which is part-owned by the Koenigsegg family, was lining up financing for the purchase among a group of "very wealthy people."

The paper said the Swedish luxury carmaker's chief executive, Christian von Koenigsegg, had declined to confirm or deny the report. Saab is seen being granted an extension of its protection from creditors by a local Swedish court on Friday.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)



Thu May 28, 2009 8:26am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saab Automobile said on Thursday the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by owner General Motors Corp had not disrupted its sale process and that it was still in discussions with three potential suitors.

A spokeswoman for the Swedish automaker, which itself has been granted protection from creditors, said the firm remains confident it can present a suitable candidate for a deal soon.

"There are three left and we are in talks with all three and we together with GM will select one to move forward with," spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said.

GM is widely expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection within days after its bondholders rejected a proposal to restructure $27 billion in debt.

Saab has asked creditors to write off 75 percent of the company's 10.6 billion crown ($1.4 billion) debt, most of which is owed to GM. GM has also agreed to provide $250 million worth of equipment which Saab will use to make its new car models.

Under Chapter 11 not all parts of GM are likely to be included under that status. Saab is a separate legal entity and has its own short-term capital.

Gustavs said possible buyers were undoubtedly weighing up the possible impact of a GM filing.

"I'm certain the investors have asked that question and given that they are still in the process this would indicate they haven't received any information that would deter them."

She added: "With the information we have, we are not worried. And we will present a preferred candidate soon, within the coming weeks."

Gustavs said she could not disclose any information on which investors were left in the bidding for Saab.

The carmaker sought protection from creditors in February to buy time to find a new owner after GM said it would cut ties with the brand by January 1, 2010. Saab has said it expects a final deal to be agreed hopefully sometime in early summer.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Greg Mahlich)



Wed May 20, 2009 8:06am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish government is optimistic about the future of carmaker Saab after recent meetings with potential buyers of the loss-making General Motors unit, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

State Secretary Joran Hagglund told Reuters the center-right government had recently met with "a few" suitors who had presented their plans for the Swedish brand, but declined to say if it had held any meetings this week.

Saab said on Tuesday it had selected three suitors with whom it will continue take-over talks.

"Overall, we are more optimistic now than we have been for a long time regarding their future," Hagglund said. He declined to reveal the identity of the suitors.

"They (potential buyers) have described who they are, how their plans look, and their thoughts and philosophies on both leadership and long-term considerations and really have wanted us to understand their intentions," he added.

The comments come as GM said separately that it expects at least three offers for its German unit Opel by Wednesday's deadline, with Italy's Fiat eyeing plans to form Europe's biggest automaker.

SAAB this week sought an extension to a period of creditor protection granted earlier this year during which it can restructure and look for a new owner. GM has said it would cut ties with the brand by the turn of the year.

Saab said negotiations would be carried out during the remainder of this month to select a final candidate.

Hagglund said the government would not provide financial support in the form of state loan guarantees until Saab had secured an owner committed to the brand.

(Reporting by Sven Nordenstam; Editing by Hans Peters)



Tue May 19, 2009 10:11am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish carmaker Saab has selected three suitors for continued talks as it searches for a new owner, the loss-making General Motors Corp unit said in a court filing on Tuesday.

In a request for an extension of the period under which the carmaker is protected from creditors, the company said it had held presentations with 10 potential suitors.

"Among these interested parties, three have been selected to continue negotiations on an acquisition of Saab," the company said in the document e-mailed from the local court in Vanersborg, southwest Sweden.

"These negotiations will be carried out during the remainder of May in order to select the final candidate."

Saab sought protection from creditors in February to buy time to find a new owner, after GM said it would cut ties with the brand by the turn of the year.

The Swedish carmaker has said it needs $1 billion in financing to see it through the crisis and has asked creditors to write off 75 percent of the company's 10.6 billion crown ($1.4 billion) debt, most of which is owed to GM.

A court official said a decision on whether to let the reorganization process be extended was expected late next week.

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Johannes Hellstrom; Editing by David Holmes)



Thu May 14, 2009 11:13am EDT

HAMEENLINNA, Finland (Reuters) - Sweden's enterprise minister said on Thursday it was too early to say if the potential buyers of struggling Saab Automobile met all the criteria for becoming a new owner.

Maud Olofsson, whose ministry has held discussions with potential buyers, told Reuters the government has been in contact with Italian automaker Fiat SpA and other parties. But she said has not yet seen a clear business plan from any of the firms.

Saab said this week the field of potential bidders for the General Motors unit had been narrowed down to a few candidates, with a final sale to be agreed hopefully sometime in early summer.

Saab is seeking financial assistance from the European Investment Bank but this would require a state guarantee, which Sweden has so far been wary of providing. As a result, the government has played a role in talks about Saab's future.

The carmaker sought protection from creditors in February to buy time to find a new owner after GM said it would cut ties with the brand by January 1, 2010.

Olofsson said a potential buyer needed to be financially able to invest in Saab and have a credible business plan.

She said it was "too early to say" if candidates still in the running fulfilled the criteria for becoming a new owner.

"There are potential candidates which are serious and which are trying to put together a business plan that is credible," she said.

"We have an active role from the government side to try to convince potential buyers that we are committed to see new owners who have the muscle to invest and secure Saab's future," Olofsson said.

Asked whether Fiat would be a suitable owner, she replied that it was one.

Fiat, which has agreed to acquire a stake in Chrysler LLC, has said it wants to merge its car unit with GM's European operations, which include Opel and Saab, to create the world's second-largest automaker after Toyota Motor Corp.

Fiat did not bite when GM first put Saab up for sale, but the Italian group said last week it had spoken with the Swedish government about buying Saab. GM said it welcomed the interest.

(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)



Mon May 11, 2009 7:43am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Two to three interested parties remain among those eyeing General Motors' Swedish carmaker Saab, local news agency TT reported on Monday.

Citing the company's court-appointed administrator, the agency said the bidders had signed a letter of intent with the carmaker, whose U.S. parent has said it wants to sell the unit by the end of this year.

Saab sought protection from creditors in February to survive the current economic downturn and buy time to find a new owner. The company said last month it had signed confidentiality agreements with 27 potential bidders.



Thu May 7, 2009 2:56am EDT

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The proposal for General Motors' European assets that Italy's Fiat presented to the German government on Monday includes plans to shrink plants across Europe, a German newspaper reported.

These measures would affect both GM Europe's and Fiat's factories, Handelsblatt newspaper said, citing Fiat's proposal -- codenamed Project Phoenix -- which it said it obtained.

The 46-page proposal also includes plans to take over GM assets in South America and South Africa.

Fiat would shrink factories in the German cities of Ruesselsheim and Bochum, Spain's Zaragoza, Sweden's Trollhattan, and Antwerp in Belgium. German unit Opel would remain headquartered in Ruesselsheim.

In addition, Fiat could close Opel's factory in Kaiserslautern, a factory in Luton in Britain and one in Austria's Graz.

Among its own factories, it could shrink or close one factory in southern Italy and one in northern Italy. The factories in France, Poland, Greece and Serbia would be unaffected under the plan, Handelsblatt said.

Fiat, which has agreed to acquire a stake in Chrysler LLC, has said it wants to merge its car unit with GM's European operations, which include Opel, sister brand Vauxhall, and Saab, to create the world's second-largest automaker after Toyota Motor Corp.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Dan Lalor)



This article was last updated on: 05/06/09, 17:45 et
AutoWeek

A picture of Saturn is attracting considerable interest, reports say. Shown is the Aura, its midsize sedan. Saturn is attracting considerable interest, reports say.

Interest appears to be heating up for two brands that General Motors is trying to shed.

Renault is pursuing Saturn, while Chinese car company Geely is interested in Saab, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, Nissan, Renault’s partner, also is interested in Saturn and could team up with auto magnate Roger Penske, according to Bloomberg.

GM acknowledged this week that it has received interest in Saturn. It announced in April that it plans to stop building vehicles for the brand this year, and a sale or the shuttering of the brand remains a possibility.

GM is racing to meet a June 1 deadline to drastically restructure its operations as it tries to avoid filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which Detroit rival Chrysler did last week. GM said it will focus on Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC. Pontiac is closing by the end of 2010, and the fates of Hummer and GM’s German division, Opel, are uncertain.



Wed May 6, 2009 5:33pm EDT
By Jui Chakravorty Das

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Motors Corp is running due diligence on about 10 bidders for Saab, after the first round of bids for the Swedish brand attracted Chinese automakers, European investor groups and private equity firms, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Saab auction process is being run independently of GM's efforts to sell other European assets including Opel, the source said.

GM has until the end of June to sell Saab, the source said.

GM put Saab up for sale in February, and the brand filed for creditor protection shortly thereafter.

Saab, currently under reorganization, aims to win court approval for an extended period of creditor protection on May 20.

Italian automaker Fiat SpA (FIA.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which acquired a stake in Chrysler LLC last week, has said it wants to merge its car unit with GM's European operations, which include Opel and Saab, to create the world's second-largest automaker after Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

But Fiat did not bid in the first round of the Saab auction, the source said. Fiat said on Wednesday it has spoken with the Swedish government about buying Saab, and GM responded by saying it would welcome any talks with Fiat.

GM, which has lost more than $82 billion since 2005, has received $15.4 billion in federal funding and expects to receive up to $18 billion by June 1. It has said it may possibly need to borrow up to $27 billion.

The White House-appointed autos task force has given GM until June 1 to come up with a restructuring plan that cuts costs and debt levels, or be steered into a bankruptcy.

(Reporting by Jui Chakravorty Das; editing by Carol Bishopric and Matthew Lewis)



Wed May 6, 2009 5:06am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Saab Automobile, owned by ailing U.S. auto maker General Motors (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), would welcome talks with Italy's Fiat (FIA.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) about a takeover, Saab said on Wednesday.

Fiat, not among the 10 suitors currently in the race for Saab, has however not been in contact with Saab's management, Saab spokesman Eric Geers told Reuters.

"But we are open for discussions. If Fiat comes into the picture, we would welcome a dialogue," Geers said.

The Swedish carmaker, currently under reorganization, aims to win court approval for an extended period of creditor protection on May 20.

Geers would not comment on whether Saab is pressed to present a letter of intent with a new owner by that date to be able to keep the reorganization going, but said it was important to show evidence of progress.

"To prolong the reorganization period, it is important to disclose in more detail how far we have come. And, of course, the ownership issue is very important," Geers said.

Earlier this year, GM put Saab up for sale and said it would cut the brand loose by the end of this year. The loss-making brand needs a new owner to secure government guarantees for much needed funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Sweden's government has confirmed it has been in contact with Fiat regarding Saab but would not disclose any details.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)



Tue, 5 May 2009 9:57 am

Know other Saab owners? Make sure they’ve heard about SOC09!
From the SOC09 Chairman,

Planning is coming along great for this year’s North American Saab Owners Convention at Copper Mountain Resort, Colorado. As you may have noticed, we’ve garnered more individual and business support than ever before and have been spreading the word like mad. Turns out a lot of folks across the country are hearing about SOC for the very first time. Perhaps you’re wondering, however, what about Saab?

Indeed, recent news about GM and Saab would have any of us thinking twice about attending an owners’ convention. We’d be the first to acknowledge the importance of Saab’s participation in the convention. Truth-be-told, however, Saab is equally conscious of the crucial role Saab enthusiasts play in the success of their brand.

At this point Saab Cars USA has given their commitment to be present with new models, including many available for test drive, as well as the potential for a decidedly impressive parts tent. They are also currently working on plans to transport select, vintage Saab models from the GM Heritage Collection.

Aside from this understandably important planning aspect; many of us see a terrific opportunity to recall what Saab Owners Conventions are really about… PEOPLE! Folks like you and I who clearly get excited about this one-of-a-kind automobile. If you’ve never before attended, know that the SOC is by all means a family event and not just for gear-heads. We’re excited to show you what Colorado has to offer and have wracked our brains to think of activities for everyone, many of which are absolutely free!

Also on tap are plenty of motoring events uniquely Saab: driving competitions, mountain tours, technical seminars, auctions, parts tent, swap-meets, even a reunion of former Saab employees. In the past month alone, our planning committee continues to make outstanding progress recruiting speakers, assembling rare cars and items of interest for auction, as well as route planning for the mountain tours. Imagine the experiences you’ll take home and the opportunity to network with great folks from across the county and world!

Don’t miss the fun… make your plans soon. We all look forward to seeing you in Colorado!

Jerry Danner
SOC09 Chairman



Tue May 5, 2009 4:48am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saab Automobile, the Swedish unit of struggling U.S. carmaker General Motors, said on Tuesday it was not in talks with Italian peer Fiat SpA about a takeover.

A spokesman confirmed comments by Saab chief executive Jan-Ake Jonsson in a Swedish newspaper where he said the carmaker was not talking to Fiat and there were other serious buyers for Saab which was put up for sale earlier this year.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers said Fiat was not among the 10 remaining potential suitors, which have visited Saab's facilities over the past couple of weeks.

"We now have 10 very serious interested parties which have visited us in Trollhattan," Geers told Reuters. "What will happen now ... we will narrow these down, and we are counting on a close (of a deal) in June, or the beginning of summer."

Fiat, fresh from a partnership with U.S. carmaker Chrysler, said on Sunday it would also evaluate a merger of its auto group with GM's European unit.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday Fiat aims to include Saab, currently under reorganization, into the new car group.

The Swedish government said on Monday it had contact with Fiat regarding Saab a couple of weeks ago, but that nothing concrete had been decided.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Dan Lalor)




From The Times
May 4, 2009
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/article6216588.ece

Fiat last night set out its blueprint to reshape the global car industry, outlining plans to spin off a new company that will include General Motors’ European business and Chrysler.

The Italian car manufacturer meets German ministers today to set out a plan that would bring GM’s Vauxhall, Saab and Opel into a company with Fiat’s core car marques, including Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari.

The company said last night that the possible new company, which would be floated, would have revenues of €80 billion (£71 billion) and an output of between six million and seven millon vehicles a year, which Fiat believes will give it the necessary scale to weather the crisis besetting the automotive industry. The proposed company would be the second largest car group in the world.

In Britain, unions have hinted that a Fiat takeover of Vauxhall would put at risk 5,000 jobs at Luton and in Cheshire. GM employs 300,000 workers worldwide.
GM has struggled to find a buyer for its non-core businesses as it seeks to avoid following Chrysler into bankruptcy. But Fiat faces some German opposition over its ownership of Opel, GM’s German subsidiary.

Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of Fiat, will today meet the Economy Minister and the Foreign Minister of Germany. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Economy Minister, warned that the German Government required a long-term strategy.

In an interview with a German newspaper, he said: “We will not enter into any financial adventure with taxpayer money. The concept must clearly show that Opel plants in Europe that are to be kept open will be secured over the long term.”

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has suggested the German Government could offer loan gaurantees to help safeguard jobs at Opel.

Last week, Fiat signed an agreement to help to run Chrysler, America’s third-largest carmaker, which collapsed into bankruptcy.

The Fiat-Opel entity would be separate from Iveco, the lorry company owned by Fiat, and Maserati and Ferrari, which the Turin manufacturer also controls. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Fiat’s chairman, said: “It would be an extraordinary opportunity for us. A very strong group would be born.”

Fiat wants to acquire Opel after its eleventh-hour deal last Thursday to buy an initial 20 per cent of Chrysler. The company believes that it needs a partner to reach the scale of production necessary to weather the crisis besetting the motor industry.

Unions and politicians have cast doubt on the logic behind a Fiat take-over of the German subsidiary. Armin Schild, a regional leader with IG Metall, the union, sits on the Opel supervisory board. He told La Stampa, the Italian newspaper: “They would not integrate, they would cannibalise each other and this would be positive for neither Fiat’s nor Opel’s workers.”

Magna, the Austrian-Canadian component maker, has also outlined an offer for Opel.

Fiat’s overtures to Opel quickly follow its agreement to enter a partnership with Chrysler after it emerges from bankruptcy. Fiat will share its fuel-efficient technology in return for gaining a stake that will eventually turn into a majority holding in the company. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy after creditors refused to accept a restructuring deal.

In its desperation to avoid following Chrysler into administration, GM has been attempting to offload its unprofitable, non-core assets.

President Obama’s Administration is hoping that it sent a message to the automotive industry by allowing Chrysler to collapse.




April 17, 2009


Buyers interested in purchasing in beleaguered Saab Automobile have been visiting the company’s main base of operations this week to get more information about its factories, organization, and business plan.

According to Saab spokesperson Gunilla Gustavs, a total of 27 potential suitors have signed confidentiality agreements indicating they are serious about making a bid for the Swedish automaker, which is currently undergoing a court-ordered restructuring.

“There may be more. Several are Swedish, but most of them are international. A number have ties to the auto industry. Others belong to other sectors, such as finance and investment companies,” Gustavs said to the TT news agency.

Saab CEO Jan Åke Jonsson is meeting with potential buyers this week at the company's Trollhättan headquarters in western Sweden and in the coming weeks will also receive representatives from Deutsche Bank, which Saab has hired to manage the sale process.

Plans for US owners General Motors to complete the sale of Saab in June remain on schedule. Saab currently has until May 20th to complete the restructuring process, but has already indicated that it may request an extension from the Vänersborgs District Court.

While sales figures continue to be catastrophic for Saab, there is some reason for hope.

“We’re following the order figures constantly and in the last week we’ve seen signs of better order intake,” said Paul Åkerlund, head of the Saab chapter of the IF Metall union.

Production is also continuing at full capacity as potential buyers visit the factory floor and no work stoppages are planned in the near term.




STOCKHOLM (Reuters), April 16
General Motors' Saab unit said on Thursday it had signed confidentiality agreements with 27 potential suitors in its efforts to find a new owner.

Saab's court-appointed administrator said earlier this month that about 20 potential buyers were looking at the company and that a deal was expected to be completed in June.

"It is of course positive that there has been this level of interest," Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said.

The Swedish carmaker had held meetings with representatives of potential buyers this week, she added.

"We are now in an intense and more organized phase of presenting the company to potential interested parties," she said.

The carmaker won more time to restructure in early April when a Swedish court extended the period in which the company is protected from creditors. GM has said it plans to cut ties to Saab by Jan. 1, 2010.




By John Stonestreet – April 14, 2009

STOCKHOLM - General Motors' Saab Automobile unit said on Tuesday it would lay off 701 employees after talks with labor unions, scaling back the originally planned 750 that were given notice of redundancy a month ago.

Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs told Reuters the 646 blue-collar workers and 55 white-collar employees would work their last day at Saab on Friday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssConsumerGoodsAndRetailNews/idUSLE38672520090414




Just announced in Sweden...April 6, 2009

VANERSBORG, Sweden (Reuters) -- A Swedish court on Monday granted General Motors' loss-making unit Saab an extension of the period it is protected from creditors, giving the carmaker further time to restructure.

The court, in Vänersborg, approved the extension after hearing that no creditors had entered reservations against Saab's proposed reorganization plan, which envisages asking creditors to write off 75 percent of its non-prioritized debts.

If a creditor had objected, the court had the power to stop the restructuring process, putting Saab at risk of bankruptcy. Some 1,300 creditors were summoned to Monday’s hearing, the Swedish news agency TT reported.

"The court has decided that the reconstruction can continue until May 20 at the latest, if no other decision is taken before then," the court said.

A court-appointed administrator,Guy Lofalk, said about 20 "actively interested parties" were eyeing Saab, whose U.S. parent has said it will cut its ties with the brand by Jan. 1, 2010.

Chinese companies such as Dongfeng Motor Corp. and Swedish industrial groups are among investors interested in Saab, a company source familiar with the negotiations told Automotive News Europe last week.

Saab sought protection from creditors in February in its effort to survive the economic downturn and buy time to find a new owner.

"During the reorganization Saab plans to begin negotiations with creditors on writing down the company's non-prioritized debts by about 75 percent," court-appointed administrator Lofalk said.

A deal on the debt was expected to be concluded in July this year, with a payment to creditors a year later.

A senior tax authority official, representing the Swedish state, as well as a representative of GM, which is also one of the chief creditors to Saab, told the court they supported the plan.

Lofalk said that about 20 potential buyers are looking at the company and that a deal is expected to be completed in June.

"So far, short descriptions of Saab, so-called teasers, have been sent out and comprehensive contacts have been undertaken with different interest parties," he said.

Auto analysts said creditors preferred reorganization over an outright bankruptcy in the hope that Saab will be able to find a new owner willing to invest enough in the business for it to survive.

Lofalk said in a court filing that a concentration of production and the launch of new models would boost capacity utilization at the company while efficiency measures lowered its breakeven level to an annual production rate of 130,000 vehicles.

"Saab also expects a positive cash flow already in 2011 as well as good returns at a production level of 150,000 cars," Lofalk said.

The court document showed Saab expecting to have lower volumes both this year and next compared to the 93,000 units produced in 2008, but that a gradual recovery in auto markets as well as the broader economy would benefit the company.

Saab needs $1 billion of financing to help it overhaul production and launch new models. It aims to raise $600 million of that sum from the European Investment Bank while GM would inject $400 million in the shape of debt write-offs and production equipment, the court filing showed.

The company -- which has been making cars in the industrial town of Trollhättan since 1949 and is one of Sweden's best-known brands -- has said it made a loss of about 3 billion crowns ($370 million) last year and expects a similar loss in 2009.

Saab last month announced it would cut 750 jobs out of a total of about 4,100 in Sweden.




By Ola Kinnander – April 1, 2009

STOCKHOLM - Saab Automobile AB, which owner General Motors Corp. is trying to sell, appears to have attracted between three and five serious bidders, but its chances of survival remain uncertain, a senior Swedish government official told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.

He also said the Swedish and German governments have discussed the possibility of merging Saab and Opel, another troubled GM unit, but decided such a deal wasn't feasible.

Saab in recent weeks has said that about eight parties have expressed interest in potentially taking over the Swedish car maker.

Joran Hagglund, a state secretary in the Swedish Enterprise Ministry who is the government's main liaison with the auto industry, said in an interview that he suspects some rival car makers may signal interest in Saab simply to gain access to its books and research and development plans.

The picture may clear up in a couple of weeks, and then it may show that "between three and five" parties are seriously considering investing in Saab, he said. However, Hagglund doubted whether this interest would be enough to save Saab once GM cuts its ties.

"It would be very nice" if Saab could survive, he said. "But the signs point the other way. The auto industry is in free fall. There may be no strong buyers."

Potential buyers likely can soon choose between several car companies in crisis. "The question then is, does Saab's concept fit into an interested party's ideas? I can't answer that, other than to say that it looks grim," he said.

Saab in February filed for bankruptcy protection, similar to the Chapter 11 process in the U.S. Saab on Monday will meet with the reconstruction team and representatives of GM and Sweden in a Swedish court to decide whether the reconstruction period, which is set to expire next month, will be extended.

Hagglund said that since GM had paid almost all of the debt owed to Saab's suppliers, he expected the court to approve Saab's request for an extension for up to three months more.

He also said he thought it was unlikely that Saab and Opel, GM's struggling German unit, would team up. The Swedish and German governments have discussed that possibility but "have pretty much concluded that ... it'd be pretty difficult to find an owner who wants to go in and own both of these loss-making companies."

Hagglund reiterated the Swedish government's stance that it wasn't interested in owning any auto companies.




Washington's decision to hand General Motors a new deadline to reach viability and to demand it sack its chief executive could put more pressure on the company's beleaguered Swedish subsidiary Saab, analysts said on Tuesday.


"This will first and foremost make it very difficult for (US President Barack) Obama to defend sending any US tax dollars across the Atlantic" to Saab in Sweden, wrote Jonas Fröberg, a commentator for the Svenska Dagbladet daily.

"The question is whether GM money now, in this new situation, will be made available to keep Saab afloat," he added.

GM's chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner was forced out at the request of Obama.

The president on Monday gave the company, which along with competitor Chrysler is requesting an extra $21.6 billion in loans, a 60-day deadline to come up with "more aggressive" restructuring plans.

But he also warned that the two might need to use the bankruptcy process "as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger," he said.

GM, which bought 50 percent of Saab in 1990 and acquired the rest 10 years later, said late last year it was looking for a buyer for the Swedish carmaker but has since virtually washed its hands of the unit, calling on Stockholm to step up and rescue it.

The Swedish government however has repeatedly said it "is not prepared to own car factories," basically leaving it up to Saab's own management to scramble to find a buyer during a three-month restructuring period that ends in May.

"Saab is a very small part of GM's many concerns ... Saab is at the bottom of the list, including when it comes to how GM will prioritise what needs to be done first," Mikael Wickelgren, a car industry expert and professor at the University of Skövde in southern Sweden, told AFP.

Swedish media also speculated on Tuesday that the appointment of Fritz Henderson as GM's new chief executive spelled more bad news for the Swedish unit.

"He is not a Saab fan ... That may not have a huge impact now that Saab has already been pushed out into the cold by GM, but it may play a limited role when it comes to deciding if money should be sent to Trollhättan," Saab's hub in southwestern Sweden, Fröberg wrote.

Wickelgren however pointed out that Henderson was number two at GM before being promoted to chief, "so I suspect his opinion mattered a lot before as well (and) I have a hard time seeing that it will make much difference to Saab that he is now on top."

State secretary Jöran Haegglund at the Swedish Enterprise Ministry meanwhile said he believed the tougher conditions facing GM might turn out to be good news for Saab.

"GM has now come under pressure to speed up finding an owner" for Saab, he said in a statement conveyed to AFP through a spokeswoman.

Wickelgren though said Saab's leadership would probably still be pretty much on its own in finding a buyer, something he said would be difficult but not impossible due to the company's small size.

While analysts have said expansion-minded Chinese automakers remain too small to purchase Sweden's Volvo from US giant Ford, Wickelgren conceded that they could conceivably buy Saab, which is four or five times smaller than its compatriot.

"A smaller company is easier to sell, so that is a possibility," he said.

Media reports on Tuesday meanwhile speculated that the Swedish GM unit might convert into a supplier if it was unable to find a buyer.

Wickelgren however insisted that was far-fetched, pointing out that the industry is already saturated with suppliers that are struggling to stay afloat.

"I have a hard time seeing the logic in that kind of reasoning," he said.




By David Jonasson -- March 31, 2009

FYI, insightful media coverage from Sweden. Monday, April 6 will mark the midway point in the Saab reorganization allowed under Swedish law after 6 weeks since the February 20 start -- prompting media coverage such as below. If all goes according to plan, the reorganization will run until the end of May and can be extended beyond that if need be. Vänersborg is close to Trollhättan... More to come.
jan-willem.vester@gm.com

The restructuring of Saab Automobile, owned by General Motors, has lasted for almost six weeks. It has been a time of setbacks and negative headlines in media. Collapsing sales figures, job cuts, reduced operating time and no government loan guarantees.

One relief is that Saab has not needed to pay the wages, since the company has been permitted the governments wage guarantee. So far has the county administrative board paid out SEK 217 million including employee benefits to the 4000 employees. That is money tax payers will lose if Saab goes bankrupt.

If the restructuring succeeds will the money be paid back. Thus the Swedish state is one of all 1300 creditors who can question the viability of Saab when the creditors’ meetings are held on Monday.

The district court decides if the plan for restructuring holds. The creditors’ meeting will be held at the session chamber of the municipal council in Vänersborg, since the interest from media and employees is believed to be massive.

Up to three judges could participate. District court judge Cecilia Tisell is one of them.

- There has to be a viable business concept. The proposal has to be persistent and realistic. The creditors’ views are important, she says to news agency TT.

According to Swedish law shall the restructuring end if the official trustee or a creditor asks for it and “the objective with the restructuring is not considered to be reached."

If the restructuring is stopped, then Saab is left with all the debts and there ought to be few other outs than a bankruptcy.

- That does not have to be decided the same day. The district court could announce that later, says Cecilia Tisell.

The task of restructuring has been carried out by the official trustee, lawyer Guy Lofalk, in cooperation with CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. They have had the assistance of two international experts, Stephen J Taylor and Martin Brindley.

It is since earlier known that in the new business plan will Saab bring home all its production to the auto plant in Trollhättan. Costs will be reduced by cutting 750 jobs. The question is if that is enough.

There is also hope for a new owner with much money.




By Aaron Kirchfeld -- March 30, 2009

General Motors Corp.’s Saab Automobile, the Swedish carmaker that filed for bankruptcy protection, may become an engineering contractor for other manufacturers if it can’t find a buyer willing to keep up mass production of its brand, people familiar with the matter said.

Some of the investors who expressed interest in Trollhättan, Sweden-based Saab are drawn to the company by its engineering and design know-how, the people said. Saab’s preferred options are a sale to a carmaker or a financial owner, and being a subcontractor ranks third, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the talks are private.

Abandoning production of its own cars would let the Swedish company pull out of a mass market that has relegated Saab to a niche existence, with fewer than 100,000 cars sold worldwide in 2008. Saab’s heritage as a maker of turbo-loaded luxury vehicles may instead attract other carmakers seeking a subcontractor with engineering, safety and design credentials.

“The longer the sales process goes on, the harder it is to see Saab finding a buyer and then all options are viable,” said Stephen Pope, chief global strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London. “If Saab’s management can draw on its strong lineage, they could be seen as a design specialist that adds flurry to other models.”

Saab has attracted as many as 10 possible investors, including potential buyers from China and Sweden, said one person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Saab management’s priority is to move production to Sweden and introduce three new models in the next 18 months, spokesman Joe Oliver said.

Saab has drawn interest from rivals as well as investment companies and is looking for a buyer who is “financially strong” and offers “long-term ownership and commitment,” Chief Executive Officer Jan-Ake Jonsson said March 4.

General Motors said last month that it would cut Saab loose after owning the company for almost two decades and failing to make the business profitable in most of that time. Saab already cooperates with another automotive contractor, Magna International Inc., which makes roof tops for Saab’s 9-3 convertible, among other vehicle parts and car bodies.

Saab may model itself on European subcontractors including Wilhelm Karmann GmbH in Germany, which makes some Chrysler cars, Heuliez SA in France, Gruppo Bertone and Pininfarina SpA in Italy, and Valmet Automotive in Finland, which assembled Porsche Boxter cars and also worked with Saab Automobile for decades.

Automobile subcontractors help carmakers manufacture more exotic models such as sports utility vehicles, sports cars and convertibles. Austria-based Magna Steyr makes the boxy G-Class Mercedes SUV, and Bertone has worked with Volvo Cars, Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo.

Working with Saab would hand other manufacturers a European brand celebrated by car enthusiasts as an emblem of engineering. Saab was the first carmaker to introduce side- impact protection systems in 1972, and it spearheaded the use of turbo-charged engines. Saab also made its mark with aerodynamic designs and convertibles.

Saab employs about 4,100 people in Sweden, and the company racked up an operating loss of 16.5 billion kronor ($2 billion) in the five years until 2008, a deficit Saab attributed to an ageing and narrow product range. Saab aims to return to profit by 2011. Oliver, the spokesman, said Saab’s priority is to emerge from reorganization and pool production in Sweden.




March 27,2009

Saab Automobile creditors are to meet the General Motors Corp. unit's management and reconstruction lawyer in court on April 6 to assess progress in finding an investor after the Swedish company sought bankruptcy protection.

The meeting is a checkpoint for all parties involved in the attempt to save Saab, spokesman Joe Oliver said Thursday. The unit filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 20 and was given three months by a court to reorganize. A judge will determine at the April meeting if another three months of reconstruction are justifiable, Oliver said.

Saab is in talks with several investors, and its business plan is to continue developing three models that would come onto the market within 18 months, Oliver said.




- EarthTimes UK

Although US giant General Motors aims to sell its Swedish subsidiary Saab, the two groups have agreed to cooperate in future, financial daily Dagens Industri reported Wednesday. Saab last month filed for bankruptcy protection while it attempts to reorganize its business. That move came after GM said it planned to shed the brand as part of its restructuring efforts.

"GM will remain a key partner for Saab during at least five to 10 years and where we, with a new owner, can access a lot of the technology we need," Saab Automobile's finance director Lars Hagerborg was quoted as telling Dagens Industri.

The agreement with GM would not cost cash-strapped Saab big sums. "We will exchange their technology for ours and offer some of our safety technology, skills for chassis trimming and engine technology," he said.

Saab would keep its most advanced turbo technology, car safety technology and cabriolet technology to itself, he added.

Hagerborg said work was ongoing with the reconstruction of Saab. Although the group has historically rarely generated a profit, "lessons have been learned," he added.

GM's interest in Saab - one of Europe's smallest car makers - dates back to the early 1990s. The company took full control in 2000.




By Sarah Lyall
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
March 23, 2009

TROLLHATTAN, Sweden — Saab Automobile may be just another crisis-ridden car company in an industry full of them. But just as the fortunes of Flint, Mich., are permanently entangled with General Motors, so it is impossible to find anyone in this city in southwest Sweden who is not somehow connected to Saab.

Which makes it all the more wrenching that the Swedish government has responded to Saab’s desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

Such a view might seem jarring, coming as it does from a country with a reputation for a paternalistic view of workers and companies. The “Swedish model” for dealing with a banking crisis — nationalizing the banks, recapitalizing them and selling them — has been much debated lately in the United States, with free-market defenders warning of a slippery slope of Nordic socialism.

But Sweden has a right-leaning government, elected in 2006 after a long period of Social Democratic rule, that prefers market forces to state intervention and ownership. That fact has made the workers of Trollhattan wish the old socialist model were more in evidence.

“I don’t think the government knows the situation in this town, how many people depend on Saab,” said Therese Doeij, 25, a clerk at a photo shop who has several friends who work at the company. “To them it’s just a factory. They don’t see the people behind it.”

Governments all over the world are confronting the disintegration of the global automobile market in different ways, with loans, bailouts and takeovers.

But Sweden’s approach has been particularly hard-nosed, and particularly unequivocal.

Why is the government apparently dead set against helping Saab, an iconic brand that stands as a global symbol of Sweden, with Ikea, Volvo and Abba?

That is what Paul Akerlund, the local chairman of the automobile workers’ union, wonders.

“I’m a little surprised,” he said. “They say the market should help itself, but the market has collapsed around the whole world. It’s an extraordinary situation.”

He added, with a note of accusation in his voice, “In Germany, France and England, the government is going in to help the car manufacturers.”

Swedish officials have condemned what they see as protectionism by other European countries that have pledged to prop up their own failing car industries. They have also been scathing about General Motors, Saab’s owner, and the last thing they want is to seem to be bailing out a despised foreign company.

Struggling for its own survival, G.M. has said it will completely pull out of Saab by the end of 2009, a course that Ms. Olofsson, the enterprise minister, described as tantamount to declaring “that they wash their hands of Saab and drop it into the laps of the Swedish taxpayers.”

She said: “We are very disappointed in G.M., but we are not prepared to risk taxpayers’ money. This is not a game of Monopoly.”

Saab lost about $343 million last year. It is now going through a Swedish process known as reorganization, a step short of bankruptcy, as it tries to persuade its creditors to prop it up while it looks for a buyer. Joe Oliver, a spokesman, said in an interview that “around six serious investors,” from Sweden and abroad, had expressed interest.

Time is running out.
But the prospect of failure is too awful for Trollhattan’s mayor, Gert-Inge Andersson, to even contemplate. In a city of about 54,000 people, Saab employs 4,000.

“I’m being optimistic, because I can’t envision a time when Saab doesn’t exist,” Mr. Andersson said in an interview in City Hall.

His son worked at Saab for a decade; his daughter’s boyfriend works there now. “Saab is our identity,” he said. “We have lived with it for many years, and it’s very important to all of us.”

Saab was always known for its innovative engineering. But analysts say that in recent years, with General Motors’s emphasis on volume rather than individuality, it has lost its edge.

“Under G.M.’s ownership, they denuded the intellectual content behind the brand,” said Peter Wells, who teaches at Cardiff Business School in Wales and specializes in the automotive industry. “Its products are not exciting enough, and Saab doesn’t have a strong brand identity anymore.”

The numbers speak all too loudly. Saab sold just 93,295 vehicles worldwide last year, 21,383 of them in the United States. As global demand plummets, the expectations for this year are even more dire. The company announced this month that it planned to lay off 750 workers in Trollhattan.

This is not a rich city. Besides Saab, the largest employer is the municipal government. The houses run mostly to modest wooden two-story structures and low-rise brick apartment buildings. But about 40 percent of the people here drive Saabs, Mayor Andersson said. On a cold evening last month, 3,000 people held a torchlight ceremony to show their support for the company.

Leave the tourist office and you come immediately to the Saab Museum. A shining, sparkling valentine to a company and an industry, it features treasures like the groundbreaking turbo engine unveiled at the 1977 Frankfurt automobile show, and the prototype of the very first Saab car, from 1947 — Ur-Saab, its license plate says proudly. All the cars here, even the rarest and most precious, are still driven from time to time by enthusiasts.

Some 50,000 tourists visit each year, said Ola Bolander, who works at the museum. Saab sponsors a festival for its fans every other year; 20,000 came to the last one, in 2007. “Saab has always been a bit different, a bit more interesting,” Mr. Bolander said. “It’s gone its own way, and it’s in the heart of the Swedish people.”

Sweden has nine million people. Labor leaders say Saab’s collapse would disproportionately affect southwest Sweden, an industrial belt that is also home to Volvo. But it would reverberate through the rest of the economy, which depends heavily on industrial exports, jeopardizing perhaps tens of thousands of jobs.

Sweden is famous for its generous unemployment provisions, which include retraining for laid-off workers. But unemployment is quickly rising. Tomas Eneroth, a member of Parliament and the spokesman for industry and trade for the opposition Social Democrats, said the government’s tough line was foolish.

“The fact that they are so passive,” he said, “is every day now making it worse and jeopardizing the possibility of having Saab still in Sweden.”

Around the corner from City Hall, Johann Riden, a sales clerk in an electronics store, said about half his customers worked either at Saab or at companies that do business with Saab.

“I have friends there, my colleagues have family there, and my friends have family there,” said Mr. Riden, 32. “If you look around, you see Saab everywhere.”




March 18, 2009

Fyi, interesting insight in the current state of the business at Saab from Dagens Industri, Sweden's Wall Street Journal: "This is the largest reconstruction in Sweden, ever"

Saabs Reconstruction Team: We Are Making Progress – Dagens Industri (Sweden)
By Karolina Palutko -- March 18, 2009

With only three weeks until the major creditors' meeting, Saab Automobile is halfway to the first critical milestone in its reconstruction. DI has met the auto manufacturer reconstruction team in an exclusive interview
.
The wind is cold but the sun shines over Trollhättan when DI is visiting. All over the plant there are employees on their way to listen to the company's CEO Jan-Åke Jonsson. In half-hour intervals, a few hours before the interview with DI, he briefs the staff on last week's news about reduction of the workforce.

And the employees are worried: "You are not feeling that well, but we continue to work. One wonders about everything, maybe primarily on who might buy Saab," says an employee before he attends the meeting.

DI is not allowed to enter the factory - no outsider is allowed that, says the Communications Department. The staff needs some peace and quiet, and may not be disturbed.

But for the reconstruction team, on whose shoulders Saabs nearest future now rests, times are busy. Since Saab began the reconstruction almost four weeks ago they have worked closely together almost around the clock.

The team consists of Guy Lofalk, lawyer; Jan-Åke Jonsson, Saab's managing director; Stephen J Taylor, an international reconstruction expert; and Martin Brindley, a specialist on the automotive industry.

- "The beginning was spent trying to solve many practical and legal issues and to get everything in place. We have identified problems and opportunities. We are making progress every week," says Guy Lofalk.

Jan-Åke Jonsson describes the period as "dizzying."

- "The first few weeks have consisted of panic-like activities. It has been turbulent. We are not accustomed to working under a reconstruction, so for us it's a new experience every day," he says.

- "No wonder that it has been turbulent," adds Stephen J Taylor. "To put this in perspective, this is the largest reconstruction that has taken place in Sweden."

Last week saw 750 employees getting the notice at the factory in Trollhättan, with has approximately 4,000 employees. And there may be additional cuts.

- "We have taken the first step and have to take decisions along the way when we see how the sales volumes develop," says Jan-Åke Jonsson.

- "We need to cut costs and look for new ways to cut costs. We simply must find a structure that is attractive to a buyer and create a strong Saab," adds Guy Lofalk
.
Much of the work that is done aims at untangle Saab from GM and make it independent. The car manufacturer has been highly integrated with the owner-company, with a joint purchasing organization as an example.

- "The complexity of the structure was a bit surprising and is a challenge," acknowledges Stephen J Taylor.

- "The challenge lies in that we must create an autonomous entity with adequate competence all around to develop new future models," says Martin Brindley.

Saabs sales figures fell dramatically during the first two months of the year. A loss of 55 percent, of which about 25 percent is attributable to Saab's precarious situation. But the production rate is nothing Jan-Åke Jonsson will disclose, more than it is adjusted each week in the current difficult situation.

According to DIs sources, Saab is financed through a loan with so-called super-seniority of 1.4 billion SEK from GM in order to cope with the reconstruction phase. At a possible bankruptcy of Saab the loan has priority. A tough liquidity management together with the State wages guarantee have also improved Saab's finances. And according to the reconstruction team there is enough money for the entire reconstruction period, which is expected to be completed by July.

- "We will get by with the money we now have," says Guy Lofalk.

April 6 is yet another decisive day for Saab. The preliminary reconstruction plan will be presented at a creditors' meeting and it will be determined if the company may continue its reconstruction.

- "We see that as a milestone where we can talk in more detail which way we are heading," says Stephen J Taylor.

The team finds it unlikely that Deutsche Bank, which has been mandated to find a buyer for Saab, would beat April 6. But according to Jan-Åke Jonsson, several parties have expressed interest. Among other things, Chinese Geely confirmed that the company is surveying the land and has been identified as potential buyers of either Saab or Volvo PV. But that is nothing the team wants to comment on. Foreign or domestic is in the end of less importance, the important thing is that there is a long-term owner with financial muscle.

That GM has now declared to be ready to become a minority shareholder in a major new European group in an attempt to save Opel, and thus is willing to give up patent rights, do not affect Saab.

- "We are not in any discussions about being a part of that, we work for an independent Saab outside GM," says Jan-Åke Jonsson.

What about Saab's patent rights?

- "Some are owned by Saab, others are at GM. I don't know what GM thinks of that. In the end it becomes a cost issue and a negotiation on whether they want to release all rights," says Jan-Åke Jonsson.

"If I put it like this: I don't think GM will make it difficult for Saab to become independent," says Stephen J Taylor.




By Ola Kinnander -- March 13, 2009

Sweden's two struggling car makers Thursday announced new measures to cut costs in an attempt to reverse spiraling losses, with Saab Automobile AB saying it will lay off nearly one-fifth of its work force and Volvo Cars freezing salaries and scaling back production.

Separately, the European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending arm, approved €3 billion ($3.85 billion) in new loans for the bloc's troubled auto industry. The EIB also said it planned to submit a further €2.8 billion in loans to its board of directors in April and May.

The EIB said it lent €400 million each to Swedish truck makers Volvo AB and Scania AB and €200 million to Volvo Cars, owned by Ford Motor Co. France's PSA Peugeot-Citroën SA and Renault SA, Italy's Fiat SpA and German auto makers BMW AG and Daimler AG will each receive €400 million. Most of the loans will go to projects that aim to increase fuel efficiency and cut carbon-dioxide emissions.

France, meanwhile, agreed to give €250 million in emergency funds to Renault Trucks, a subsidiary of Volvo AB, on the condition it won't cut French jobs or plants.

Saab, which owner General Motors Corp. wants to offload by 2010, said it is giving notice to 750 staff at its Trollhattan plant in western Sweden. The car maker, which currently employs 4,100 people, filed for bankruptcy protection last month. In its struggle to survive, Saab is trying to gain the interest of investors so that it can continue operations after GM severs its ties.

The job cuts may also be necessary to get its own EIB loan, which the company applied for last month.

In a move to avoid more layoffs, rival Volvo Cars, which owner Ford is trying to sell, said it has signed a deal with unions to lower personnel costs. The measures, which include freezing salaries for all employees until January 2010, should save close to 500 million Swedish kronor ($57 million), the car maker said.






Saab Automobile has given notice to 750 employees that their jobs at the company’s Trollhättan facilities in central Sweden may be cut. "We announced this morning we would seek to make 750 redundancies in our production facility in Trollhättan," Saab spokesman Joe Oliver told AFP.

"This is a necessary action to increase liquidity and the top priority for Saab at the moment is to reorganize efficiently in order to attract new investors," he said.

"It will likely be 650 blue-collar and 100 white-collar" workers who will lose their jobs, Oliver added.

Last month, Saab's beleaguered US owner basically abandoned the Swedish unit, saying its ownership obligations would lapse at the end of this year.

“It’s really too bad, but unfortunately, it’s necessary. We need to adjust the number of employees to the decrease in demand for cars,” Saab spokesperson Gunilla Gustavs told the TT news agency.

Staff were informed of the redundancy notices on Thursday morning, according to Gustavs.

Saab had so far managed to endure the current auto sector crisis without cutting any jobs.

But the evening shift was cut in December, which resulted in 350 redundant positions.

Since then sales have continued their steep decline, leading to Thursday’s layoff announcement.

Local union chair Anette Hellgren lays part of the blame for the layoffs with the European Investment Bank (EIB).

“If we had gotten support from there, we would have gotten by without the redundancy notices,” she told TT.

“Congratulations, Volvo, but they would have managed without the loan guarantees.”

Hellgren stressed, however, that the job cuts were not the first steps in an eventual shuttering of Saab, explaining that the company is treading carefully as it goes through a court-ordered restructuring.

The restructuring began after GM warned it could be pushed into immediate bankruptcy unless it received help from the Swedish government, which in turn flatly refused to step in and rescue Saab.

According to Saab and the Swedish government, several potential buyers have shown interest in the automaker which was once renowned for its cutting-edge technology and futuristic designs but which in recent years has suffered from an aging product line and plunging sales.

Out of Saab's around 4,100 employees in Sweden, 3,700 work at its hub in the southwestern town of Trollhättan.

A GM factory in Mexico also makes Saab cars but the jobs there are not dependent on the Swedish unit.

Including suppliers, some 15,000 jobs in Sweden are believed to be at risk if the unit disappears




Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:32am EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - General Motors' Swedish unit Saab Automobile said on Thursday a group of Sweden-based investors had shown interest in the company.

"I cannot disclose who they are. But I can confirm that there is a group of investors in Sweden which has shown interest," Saab spokesman Eric Geers told Reuters.

Geers said the loss-making carmaker, whose U.S. parent has said it will sever ties to the brand, was being courted by six to eight "very large" companies in total.

Earlier on Thursday Saab said it had given 750 employees at its Trollhattan plant notice of redundancy.

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.




What’s Up with Saab? – AutoTropolis.com

By Sheryll Alexander -- March 10, 2009

http://www.autotropolis.com/autotropolis-columns/driving-smart/whats-up-with-saab.html

Saab is one of my favorite car brands, so it is truly sad to hear about this Swedish company’s troubles with owner GM. The news from GM, even as three new Saab models are ready to be launched over the next 18 months, is that Saab is moving back to Sweden.

Calling it a “new independent Saab,” GM says its strategic worldwide review of the Saab brand has directed Saab’s board of directors in Sweden to file for “reorganization” in Swedish court.

This process, says GM, will “create a fully independent business entity that would be sustainable and suitable for investment.”

So, what does this mean to Saab owners and would-be Saab buyers. It’s hard to know, unfortunately.

What I do know from hanging out with Saab execs is that they are fiercely proud of their company and their vehicles. For decades, Saab competed directly with its larger Swedish rival Volvo. Then, when Saab was bought by GM, the company competed here in America’s tough sport sedan market, winning over new car buyers from such lustrous companies as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.

Plus, Saab just makes great cars. I’ve road tested many Saab cars and, over the years, I’ve loved each and every one. Saab’s sedans, sport wagons and convertibles have that overall great value with excellent design, performance, versatility and technology.

Perhaps for Saab, this “getting back to the basics” approach of concentrating design, engineering and manufacturing in Sweden will create even better vehicles. Unfortunately, the entire reorganization is questionable as, pending court approval, Saab will be in need of investors, which seem to be in short supply at this time of financial crisis.

In addition, 2009 is a critical time for Saab. "With an all new 9-5, 9-3X and 9-4X all ready for launch over the next year and a half, Saab has an excellent foundation for strong growth, assuming we can get the funding to complete engineering, tooling and manage launch costs,” says Jan Åke Jonsson, managing director for Saab Automobile."

Jonsson admits the road ahead will not be easy. “Many have already suffered considerably as a result of the crisis in the automobile industry and sacrifices will be a part of our future, but after a period of tough decisions we will have laid the foundations for a new beginning,” he says.

At the recent Geneva Motor Show, Saab proudly introduced the 9-3X. Calling the 9-3X a “smart all-rounder for outdoor enthusiasts,” this sport wagon features distinctive good looks, advanced all-wheel drive technology, fuel efficiency and function storage.



I’m excited to try out Saab’s new cross-wheel-drive (XWD) system in its 9-3X edition with its fuel efficient 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine. The 9-3X was also designed 1.4 inches higher than the current 9-3, giving it better clearance for gravel and unpaved roads.

“Simply put, we are offering a trekking shoe that will do what’s required in more comfort and style than a heavier mountaineering boot,” says Simon Padian, Saab’s brand design chief. Now that sounds like Saab with its Scandanavian athleticism, a bit of wit, powerful performance and cool design.

Sheryll Alexander is a freelance writer based in Costa Mesa, California:




By Mark Phelan – March 4, 2009

Reorganization is to be done in spring; clearer picture expected within weeks

GENEVA, Switzerland -- Saab, the money-losing Swedish automaker General Motors has said it must sell or put into bankruptcy by the end of the year, has had contacts from several potential buyers, company Managing Director Jan Ake Jonsson said in an interview at the Geneva Auto Show Tuesday. Despite its troubles, Saab has value, said Rebecca Lindland of analyst IHS Global Insight. "They've got great, loyal customers. Unfortunately GM didn't cultivate them or understand their value."

Jonsson is confident the Swedish government will provide the money Saab needs to reorganize and find a new owner. Under Swedish law, Saab's reorganization must be completed by May 20. Jonsson said he expects to have a clear idea who the serious bidders are within a couple of weeks.

"We have committed to carving out Saab from GM and finding a new owner," he said. "We need to get this done as quickly as possible. We need to sort out our financing and future ownership."

About half the current potential buyers are involved in the auto industry.

Saab's small size will pose challenges for it to develop new vehicles and technologies alone. Jonsson expects to address that by working with a number of automakers.

"In today's auto industry, there are many more cooperative projects between manufacturers without ownership," he said. "I trust that going forward, we'll have a lot of different relationships with many different automakers."

Saab's technology and global distribution network could make a good fit for an Indian, Chinese or Russian buyer, he said. A European automaker that does not already have a premium brand might also want Saab, he said. French automaker Peugeot-Citroen is the only company that seems to fit that description

We could be looking at a Chinese automaker looking for a global dealer network" as Saab's next owner, Lindland said.

The company is going ahead with development and sales plans for its upcoming 9-5 sport sedan and 9-4X luxury crossover, Jonsson said, adding that GM will build the 9-4X at an assembly plant in Mexico.

"The 9-5 and 9-4X are almost completely engineered," he said. "We just have to put them into production."

The 9-5 is to go on sale late this year, the 9-4X in September 2010. GM had planned to build the 9-5 in Ruesselsheim, Germany. Production will now move to Saab's plant in Trollhattan, Sweden.

Saab introduced its new 9-3X crossover wagon at the Geneva show Tuesday. The car is to go on sale in the United States in September.

Once Saab is separated from GM, the company will redefine its image with a sharper focus on traditional Saab characteristics like safety and small, efficient engines, he said.

"There will be a lot of people cheering the day we become independent," he said of Swedish sentiment for Saab.




The latest from Geneva...

By Christiaan Hetzner – March 3, 2009

GENEVA - Swedish carmaker Saab is hoping to find a new investor within three months, promising profitability even with a volume of as little as 150,000 vehicles sold, its chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

Thanks to reallocating production of its 9-5 model sedan to Trollhattan, its plant should be utilized much more efficiently and far from cutting jobs, Jan Ake Jonsson expects to add jobs in Sweden, where salary and wage costs are very competitive.

"In the next few days we will go out more actively and present our case to the ones (potential investors) who have been showing an interest as well as looking for new alternatives, scan the market," he said on the sidelines of the Geneva auto show.

Jonsson said potential investors in Saab were from both inside and outside the car industry. He is working to find an ownership solution for Saab before the three-month reorganization deadline expires.

He said this time period would not necessarily include time for due diligence, and that the deadline could be extended on a three-month basis for up to one year.

"We need to accelerate this issue, and I have good hopes we will find interested investors," Jonsson said

"If you are fully financed through the government and through GM, it's a manageable size business so I think it's easier probably to find a buyer for us than any of the bigger companies," he said.

With Saab slated for sale and asking for state aid to survive, Jonsson's business plan will be key if the Swedish carmaker wants to secure a future in a rapidly shrinking market.

"With the 9-5, 9-4x (model) vehicles almost done, we are in a very good shape to be profitable within that range" of 150,000 to 175,000 vehicles. "It's still a relevant volume range."

GERMAN PLANS

Jonsson said part of the problem has been the enormous manufacturing complexity of the current 9-5 sedan, which has been in the market for more than 10 years.

He said next year's relaunch could go a long way to improving margins and boosting Trollhattan's extremely low utilization rate of less than 50 percent.

"The 9-5 (model) and the future 9-3 (model) are engineered to be manufactured in a much more efficient way. If you take today's 9-5, it goes back a couple of architectures from a GM point of view -- back to probably the end of the 80s," he said.

"When you go to the next generation vehicles you will have a much more efficient way of building them."

Since Saab generates two-thirds of its sales in the U.S., UK and Swedish markets, he said it was "critical" to expand shares in European premium segment markets such as Germany, where he believes volumes could rise to 15,000 from a current 4,000.

Jonsson said Saab's ties to GM will not be entirely cut, though, since it will go ahead with plans to build the 9-4x crossover in a GM plant in Mexico.

"We will be dependent on GM powertrains for a long period of time and when we then look at some of the architecture, some of the components will also be sourced from GM so we will have service agreements that will last some significant time."







Senior General Motors executive Bob Lutz has suggested that a solution to the problems faced by Swedish car firms Volvo and Saab would be to merge them. "That way both we and Ford get rid of a problem," Lutz told news agency TT in Geneva.

The 77-year-old US car industry legend is in Geneva for an industry exhibition. Swedish news agency TT caught up with him in the airport and he was candid over GM's attitude to the troubled Swedish car-maker.

In its application to the US government for billion dollar loans earmarked to secure GM's own future the firm has confirmed that its financial lifeline to Saab will be cut at the end of the year, at the latest, TT writes.

Lutz confirms that the main objective remains to find a buyer for Saab.

"But I think it will be hard. Buyers also look at the figures. Just like the Swedish government has done. Who wants to buy a firm that has reported losses, year after year," he queries.

Saab is planning to display its new model 9-3 X - basically a tougher variant of the 9-3 - at the Geneva fair.

While Lutz gave a further sign of no confidence in the Saab by confirming to TT that he has no intention of attending the launch, Saab CEO Jan Åke Jonsson is more upbeat about the firm's prospects.

Jonsson claims that there are seven or eight parties which have expressed an interest in buying the firm.

Meanwhile also in Geneva Volvo Cars CEO Stephen Odell has predicted that the car industry will rebound in the autumn and is not interested in rumours of a sale to a Chinese firm.

"I have my hands full running a company," Odell said to TT, dismissing speculation that the firm's leadership were in the Swiss city to canvass for potential suitors
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Odell confirms that the Swedish government has promised to issue 100 percent state guarantees for a loan of five billion kronor ($546 million) from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Volvo Cars is the first firm to apply for emergency loans from the EIB's 220 billion kronor fund for the crisis hit European car industry.

Swedish enterprise minister Maud Olofsson has said that the Swedish government is not prepared to issue guarantees to support Saab's own loan application from the EIB unless it can be shown that there is a party willing to commit to running the company.

Jan Åke Jonsson confirmed to TT in Geneva however that Saab has been given encouragement by the government to pursue its loan application even before such state guarantees can be made.




By John Stoll -- March 3, 2009
GENEVA -- General Motors Corp.'s flagging Saab division will accelerate talks this week with "a number" of potential buyers, the unit's top executive said Monday.

Saab Managing Director Jan Ake Jonsson, in an interview at the Geneva auto show, said Saab is working with Deutsche Bank and has begun discussions with potential investors from the auto industry and outside it. He declined to name any of Saab's suitors, but said it is possible a deal could be completed by next year.

Mr. Jonsson also said Saab needs €500 million ($628.8 million) in aid from the Swedish government to survive amid the deep downturn in global auto sales. Saab recently sought to reorganize under court protection in Sweden, a process similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

The reorganization was prompted by GM's decision to turn Saab into an independent company. Saab will be challenged to survive on its own, however. GM and Saab have asked the Swedish government for financial aid, but the request hasn't yet been granted.

Without aid, Saab could run out of money, Mr. Jonsson acknowledged.

Mr. Jonsson added he is confident Saab can attract government support thanks to its importance to Sweden's economy. Saab and its suppliers employ 15,000 people in Sweden, and it has more than 1,000 dealers world-wide.

Saab is committed to reaching profitability by 2011, Mr. Jonsson said. That commitment is at the core of its discussions with the Swedish government concerning the need for loans to keep it afloat.

"The Saab brand at this point is very relevant," he said. Saab's vehicles are known to be fuel-efficient and sporty, a combination that appeals to certain consumers in the U.S. and Europe.

Its sales fell to fewer than 100,000 vehicles in 2008, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2006, mainly because it has only had three vehicles in its lineup and GM hasn't updated its main models. The Saab 9-5 sedan has been on the market for 12 years and the 9-3 sedan for seven.

Saab is minor in GM's international operations. But it is symbolic of the strategy that GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner is being forced to abandon as he lobbies for tens of billions of dollars in government aid in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

GM's large stable of brands, long criticized as bloated by outsiders, was supposed to help the auto maker cast a wide net over various types of buyers in the industry. But that approach was costly and complex.

In an interview Friday, GM Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said GM was "on the cusp" of launching new Saab models, but then the company's "revenue collapsed" when auto sales fell dramatically in the second half of 2008
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Saab is using the Geneva auto show as the venue to unveil a new all-wheel-drive wagon variant of its 9-3. The unit is also poised to launch a redesigned 9-5 sedan and debut the 9-4X crossover in the coming year
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Mr. Jonsson said Saab is working to reassure potential customers. "We're not naive in terms of believing that what has happened in the past couple weeks has not impacted customers' judgment," he said.

Technically under Swedish law, Saab needs to be reorganized by May 20, but it is allowed to file for delays of up to a year.




Saab’s US owner General Motors has said it will start paying money owed to the struggling Swedish automaker’s suppliers in order to keep Saab's production lines running

"We have put aside 1.3 billion kronor ($142 million) for this and have already received most of the bills, which will be paid immediately," GM's purchasing chief Bo Andersson told Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri.

"We have no problems with deliveries to Saab right now," he said, adding that Saab's largest suppliers included Lear, IAC, Aisin Warner, Arcelor Mittal and Thyssen Krupp.

GM has asked the US government for tens of billions of dollars in loans and has announced plans to lay off 47,000 employees.

Last month the company basically abandoned Saab Automobile, saying its ownership obligations would run out at the end of this year.

The beleaguered Swedish carmaker began restructuring after GM warned it could be pushed into immediate bankruptcy unless it received help from the Swedish government, which in turn flatly refused to step in and rescue Saab.

In order to keep production running, GM also paid 1.4 billion kronor to lawyer Guy Lofalk, who has taken on Saab's restructuring, but Andersson admitted the amount would not get the Swedish company through the three-month restructuring period.

"Think of it as a 'get-started' fee. We'll have to see how long the money lasts," Andersson told Dagens Industri.

Last week, Saab's production was temporarily halted due to supply problems and was threatened by a dispute with the Swedish customs service over payment difficulties that have since been worked out.

Saab is not the only part of GM that is struggling. The US automaker owes a total of about 90 billion kronor to suppliers, according to Dagens Industri.

"Many suppliers are dragging their feet on deliveries due to the threat that GM could file for bankruptcy," Andersson acknowledged.

Saab employs about 4,100 people in Sweden, 3,700 of whom work at its hub in the southwestern town of Trollhättan.

Including suppliers, some 15,000 jobs in Sweden are believed to be at risk if the unit disappears.




In true fashion, Erik rolls on and on and on... For more downloadable images, see media.saab.com under the global tab.

Erik ‘Mr Saab’ Carlsson is 80 years young this week (March 5) and still employed by Saab, making him the Swedish manufacturer’s longest-serving employee




As international rallying’s first real superstar, Erik’s career with Saab spans six decades and today he remains actively involved as an international ambassador for the brand, attending Saab launches, dealer and customer events around the world.

The names of Carlsson and Saab are inextricably bound together. Born and bred in Saab’s home town of Trollhättan, Erik first sprang to fame in the early Sixties, as ‘the big man in a little car’, taking two back-to-back victories in the Monte Carlo Rally (1962-63) and a hat-trick of wins in the British RAC Rally (1960-62). His ‘David and Goliath’ exploits against more powerful cars were the springboard for launching Saab as a global car brand.

As a young boy, Erik used to stand on the perimeter of the local airfield in Trollhättan and admire the aerobatics of Saab aircraft flying overhead. Little did he know that Saab would soon start manufacturing cars, and that he would play such a key role in promoting its products.

He bought his first car, a second-hand Saab 92, in 1955 and it was a development of this car, the Saab 96, which took him to his most famous rally victories. Over the years, he has driven thousands of Saab cars and been involved in the development and testing of many of the models. There is probably no man on the planet who has driven more Saabs than Erik.

He currently drives a Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi and, in celebration of his 80th birthday, Saab Switzerland is launching an uprated ‘Erik Carlsson’ edition of the 9-3 SportCombi and Sport Sedan, both featuring Saab’s widely-acclaimed XWD, all-wheel-drive system.

An ebullient character, full of stories and anecdotes laced with a Swedish charm for understatement, Erik continues to ‘live his dream’. He is still in great demand as a celebrity guest and entertaining speaker. His extraordinary memory for faces and names is as sharp as ever and almost as legendary as his exploits behind the wheel. Very much a ‘people person’, Erik is never happier than when meeting and sharing his experiences with enthusiasts.

“I’ve had a wonderful time with Saab,” he says. “We started off by producing real drivers’ cars with a distinctive character and this is as true today as it was when I first joined the company. Design and technology may have developed a great deal over the years, but the qualities that make a Saab a Saab are still same.”

“I’ve travelled the world as a driver and ambassador for the company and I plan carrying on just as long as I am able. I’ve been very lucky because my career with Saab has been a passion every bit as much as a job.”

Erik will enjoy his birthday at home with close family and friends. And on Saturday, March 14, he will attend a special Open Day at the Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan to be held in his honor.

“Erik is a truly charismatic figure, part of Saab’s living heritage,” says Jan-Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s Managing Director. “As we move forward, he will continue to symbolize the enthusiastic, fun-to-drive tradition that inspires the development of our brand.”




"You’ve always known us as somewhat of an unconventional company. From our very first days, when a group of unassuming jet engineers decided that driving should feel more like flying, we’ve had a natural affinity to seek the not-so-obvious path. Buoyed by a curious mix of ingenuity and optimism, we’ve always found our way.

Today, our sights are set on a new destination: independence.

Last week, General Motors submitted its viability plan to the U.S. Department of Treasury that outlined the corporation’s long-term restructuring goals. In that plan, GM stated that it would actively pursue measures that could result in Saab Automobile AB, including all of Saab’s global operations, becoming an independent company.

Saab has had several different types of ownership during its storied history. Recently, the first step toward re-establishing its independence was taken when Saab Automobile AB in Sweden filed for reorganization under a self-managed Swedish court process that will attempt to create a fully independent business entity. The reorganization in Sweden allows Saab to continue operating, while new ownership possibilities are being pursued. Current business is unaffected during this restructuring process.

So, what exactly does all this mean?

To current Saab owners and loyalists, be assured that all warranties on Saab vehicles remain valid. The warranty for both new and Certified Pre-Owned Saab vehicles are provided by GM and remain intact. GM will support continued availability of parts and service. Prepaid scheduled maintenance also remains in effect on all current product offerings.

To those who have recently expressed interest in buying a new Saab, we’ll be there for you as well. All of Saab’s current product offerings remain available. While these times may seem turbulent and uncertain, our cars are just as safe, just as fuel-efficient and just as fun-to-drive as ever. With the full backing of all warranties, you can drive with confidence knowing that your Saab will be covered under its warranty.

We are excited by the potential opportunities tomorrow will bring. And we’re eager to start anew. During the reorganization period, your Saab Dealer stands ready to assist you with all your sales and service needs. In addition, Saab Customer Assistance is available at (800) 955-9007. While it may not be the most conventional path to take, for those who know Saab, you’re well aware – we know no other way. With the spirit of Saab leading us, we hope you'll join us for the ride.

Sincerely,

Mark C. McNabb
Vice President
Premium Channel
General Motors Corporation"


Saab Files for Protection from Creditors – Associated Press
By Karl Ritter – February 20, 2009

General Motors Corp.'s Swedish-based subsidiary Saab went into bankruptcy protection Friday so the unit can be spun off or sold by its struggling U.S. parent, officials said.

The move comes after Sweden turned down GM's request for government help for Saab.

An application to reorganize the brand was filed at a district court in Vanersborg, in southwestern Sweden, Saab spokeswoman Margareta Hogstrom said. It was approved later Friday.

The Swedish government on Wednesday rejected a request from loss-making GM to inject money into the carmaker. GM, which is seeking help from the U.S. government to avoid bankruptcy at home, has been looking for buyers for Saab but said it needs more funding to spin off or sell the division.

"We explored and will continue to explore all available options for funding and/or selling Saab and it was determined a formal restructuring would be the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment," Saab's managing director, Jan Ake Jonsson, said in a statement.

The move would give Saab protection from creditors while it restructures in a process similar to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S.

GM said in a statement that Saab would continue operating normally. Fearing that parts suppliers would stop shipping, Detroit-based GM said it would make sure they are paid.

"GM is fully committed to maintaining a viable and successful local and global supplier base during the Saab reorganization," Bo Andersson, GM group vice president for purchasing, said in a statement.

Saab said that pending court approval, the reorganization would take place over three months and would require independent funding. The automaker said it would seek funding "from both public and private sources."

However, government officials seemed to rule out financial assistance. "I'm not sure what they're referring to, because support in the form of money is not on the agenda," Industry Ministry spokesman Hakan Lind said.

Industry Minister Maud Olofsson told Swedish news agency TT it was "very hard to say what our role will be."

On Wednesday, Olofsson rejected GM's plea for state funding for Saab, saying it was up to the U.S. automaker to save the brand.

In its own restructuring plan, GM said Tuesday it would need up to $30 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department, up from a previous estimate of $18 billion and including $13.4 billion it has already received. It also said it would need to cut 47,000 jobs worldwide and close five more U.S. factories.

GM said it needed about $6 billion in support from the governments of Canada, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Thailand to provide liquidity for its overseas operations in those countries.

The Detroit automaker said it had developed a proposal that would cap its financial support of Saab with the Trollhattan-based automaker's operations "effectively becoming an independent business entity" by Jan. 1, 2010.

Saab has around 4,500 workers in more than 50 countries. Its main markets include the U.S. Britain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia, France, the Netherlands, and Norway, with most of its production located in Sweden.

With three new models ready for launch in the next 18 months — the 9-5, 9-3X and 9-4X — managing director Jonsson said Saab has "an excellent foundation" to grow, assuming it can get funding for engineering, tooling and launch costs.

"Reorganization will give us time and means that help these products to market while minimizing the liquidity impact of Saab on GM," Jonsson said.

But analysts questioned whether Saab could survive on its own since it is a small player in the battered global auto industry.

"It doesn't have the economies of scale or the deep pockets," said Stephen Pope, chief global markets strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald. "Perhaps they're just trying dress it up for buyers."

Originally an aircraft maker, Saab started manufacturing cars after World War II. General Motors bought a 50 percent stake and management control of Saab Automobile in 1989 and gained full ownership in 2000. The aircraft division remains a different company.

GM's other European brands are Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in Britain. GM also markets its Chevrolet brand in Europe.

German officials have indicated that they are willing to help keep open Opel plants, but are insisting that the company outline a long-term plan for the division first.

Economy Ministry spokesman Steffen Moritz said in Berlin Friday that the automaker is expected to produce that concept "by the end of next week."


Saab Press Release - February 20, 2009

· Swedish court process to reorganize Saab into a fully independent business
· Three new models ready to be launched over the next year and a half
· Saab aims to bring resources back to Sweden
· Funding sought for ‘new independent Saab’

Trollhättan -- As a result of GM’s strategic review of the global Saab business the Saab Board announced today that it will file for reorganization under a self-managed Swedish court process to create a fully independent business entity that would be sustainable and suitable for investment.

The reorganization is a self-managed, Swedish legal process headed by an independent administrator appointed by the court who will work closely with the Saab management team. As part of the process, Saab will formulate its proposal for reorganization, which will include the concentration of design, engineering and manufacturing in Sweden. This proposal will be presented to creditors within three weeks of the filing. Pending court approval, the reorganization will be executed over a three-month period and will require independent funding to succeed.

“We explored and will continue to explore all available options for funding and/or selling Saab and it was determined a formal reorganization would be the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment,” said Jan Åke Jonsson, Managing Director for Saab Automobile. “With an all new 9-5, 9-3X and 9-4X all ready for launch over the next year and a half, Saab has an excellent foundation for strong growth, assuming we can get the funding to complete engineering, tooling and manage launch costs. Reorganization will give us the time and means that help get these products to market while minimizing the liquidity impact of Saab on GM.”

Funding for the restructured company will need to be secured during the reorganization process and will be sought from both public and private sources.

Saab will continue to operate as usual and in accordance with the formal reorganization process, with the Government providing some support during this period. The reorganization should have no impact on other GM operations. Details of the progress will be provided as milestones are achieved.


By Bill Visnic— February 9, 2009

A report from Europe late last week says General Motors Corp. and the government of Sweden could be hurrying to broker an arrangement for GM's wholly-owned Saab Automobile AB that would effectively re-establish Saab as an independent automaker.

GM's Carl-Peter Forster was reported as saying GM and the Swedish government are working quickly to refine the details of a deal - authorized and financed by Sweden - that would establish independent, Sweden-based management for Saab and re-establish most, if not all, of the company's auto manufacturing once again in the Scandinavian nation, said a story by Britain's AutoCar magazine.

GM is rushing to tie-up the plan so that Saab might at least technically no longer be a part of GM when the company presents its next restructuring blueprint to Congress Feb. 17 and other federal entities in order to be considered "viable" and worthy of receiving continued government funding.

Although Sweden reputedly continues to stress it has no interest in owning Saab, government representatives have said the country would help fund a plan to separate Saab from GM and help establish a new ownership structure, perhaps a coalition of investors.

GM likely will return the brand back to Sweden at virtually no cost for the benefit of showing U.S. government accountants money-losing Saab has been permanently shifted from GM's ledgers, while also demonstrating the company plans to focus its restructuring investment on its U.S. brands.

A deal to return Saab to indigenous control likely would not mean an abrupt end to manufacturing and engineering ties with GM, however; GM almost assuredly would continue to furnish Saab with design, manufacturing and engineering support, as at least three new Saabs based on GM-designed platforms are well along the development path.

Saab already is near completion of a new and long-overdue replacement for the 9-5 full-size sedan later this year (the current 9-5 went on sale as a '98 model) and also has similar launch timing for the production version of the 9-4X BioPower concept crossover, a model based on the underpinnings of the recently unveiled 2010 Cadillac SRX.

And late last year, industry rumors said Saab was examining independent development of a compact car, ostensibly badged 9-1, to compete with fuel-efficient premium cars such as the BMW 1-Series and Mini Cooper. That car reputedly would assume the styling of the 9-X BioHybrid concept.


By Steve Cropley – February 5, 2009

GM is working at top speed to complete “the base outline” of a Saab funding agreement with the Swedish government before the end of the month, GM Europe president, Carl-Peter Forster, has said.

A plan for Saab’s future must be part of the overall viability plan for GM presented to the US government authorities at the end of the month, said Forster. GM, currently Saab’s sole owner, has sought Swedish government approvals and finance to give the loss-making company an independent, Swedish-based management, and to centre its manufacturing once again in Trollhättan.

The Swedish government has already agreed in principle to provide funding for the moves, but has no desire to take its own stake in Saab. Meanwhile, GM said it would willingly concede control of the Trollhättan-based company to achieve stability, while continuing to supply it with “architectures and technologies”.

“I still believe in the Saab brand,” said Forster. “Its traditional values of safety, understated design and care for the environment all fit today’s socio-economic climate and are very resilient. With the right model structure and a consistent, well implemented strategy, I’m convinced Saab could still be profitable.”

Forster says GM’s ‘mistake’ was to set Saab on the correct path too late. What Saab needs, he says, is a three-to-four-model range of appealing, distinctively different cars, a target which, ironically, isn’t far away.

Saab will launch a new 9-5 in about a year, and a mid-sized SUV, the 9-4X, in about 15 months. That will be followed a year later by a new 9-3. At that stage, a new small Saab, probably Astra-based, could make sense, Forster believes.


From Sweden, via the Netherlands and the United Kingdom:
By Hilton Holloway – February 2, 2009

Saab has made plans to use its upcoming independence from GM to become the ‘Apple of car brands’.

Knut Simonsson, the Saab’s director of Global Brand and Sales, told a Dutch auto magazine that the Saab DNA underpinning future models will be represented by "innovation, aircraft history and Scandinavia". This can be summed up by the idea of “independent thinking” he said.

Saab could ape Apple by having a small market share but appearing to be much bigger, said Simonsson. It would be a "special brand for entrepreneurs, dentists, doctors and agency people". Saab was "absolutely not" about being the same as other car makers. "We don't want to be another Audi," he said.

Simonsson said the work on Saab’s future direction began "three or four years ago" and the dramatic Aero X concept was "a restart for the brand". He also underlined that Saab wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, deciding a strategy and then changing direction.

The all-new 9-5 saloon is currently undergoing winter testing, Simonsson revealed, and is "99 per cent finished". He said that it will go on sale in 2009, after being unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September. An estate 9-5 is scheduled for 2010. The new 9-5 is also likely to cost more than outgoing model.

Simonsson did not, however, comment on the plans to make the 9-5 at Saab’s HQ in Trollhattan, rather than at Opel’s factory in Russelsheim.

In the longer term, he said, Saab doesn’t have to be a very big company to be viable, claiming Saab can be profitable with production of 150,000 cars per year. Simonsson also claimed the company was "profitable in Europe for the last two or three years".


FYI, for your viewing fun...


Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible

Burn Notice, the number one new show on cable, returns for season 2.5 with all new episodes starting Tonight- January 22nd at 10PM EST on the USA network. The will play the lead role as Fiona’s (Gabrielle Anwar) vehicle and will be featured in all 7 episodes. In addition, Saab will have spots running during each of these episodes. The 9-3 Aero Convertible will also play an integral part in Covert Ops 2, the online Alternate Reality Experience that puts the user in position of aiding Michael Westen in weekly missions.


Swedish Carmaker Saab to Get a Life Line -- BusinessNews.com
January 20, 2009

Moving back production of new car models as well as research and development funds may give Swedish carmaker Saab a life-line, reports said Tuesday.

Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter cited a secret plan that included moving production of the 9-5 model from Rüsselsheim in Germany to Trollhättan, south-western Sweden.

US auto giant General Motors (GM) took full control of Saab - one of Europe's smallest carmakers - in 2000.

In 2005, Trollhättan lost out to Rüsselsheim over the future production of the successors to the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra, both of which have a joint platform.

The assembly of 9-3 cabriolet models would also move from Austria to Sweden, according to the plan being discussed, the paper said.

Saab was also to get a more independent role within GM.

Hundreds of new engineering jobs were envisaged if research and development funds were reverted back to Trollhättan, the report said.

The move to separate Saab from GM is linked to a package the Swedish government launched in December. The 28-billion-kronor (3.4- billion-dollar) package aimed at securing the long-term viability of Swedish-based vehicle makers.

It included funds for a research and development centre as well as credit guarantees and rescue loans. However, the government is anxious to ensure that state funds do not end up abroad.

Saab has streamlined production and is estimated to be able to produce 100,000 cars at a profit. Sales in 2008 were however below that number.

Saab union officials told Swedish media that a decision was not likely until mid-February, and declined to comment the report.
         
updated 4/17/09