WRAPUP 2-Saab deal hopes fade, GM presses on with wind down

Thu Dec 24, 2009 1:13pm EST

Related Topics

* GM pressing ahead with Saab wind-down plans-source

* Billionaire John de Mol says not involved in Saab talks

* Spyker shares drop 1.4 percent (Adds report from Swedish news web site)

By Kevin Krolicki and Gilbert Kreijger

DETROIT/AMSTERDAM, Dec 24 (Reuters) - General Motors Co [GM.UL] is pressing ahead with plans to shut down Saab as chances of a deal to sell the Swedish brand to Dutch sports car builder Spyker Cars SPYKR.AS remain remote, a person familiar with the planning said on Thursday.

GM has not changed the plans it announced Friday to begin winding down Saab's operations in January and it has started discussions with other interested parties as part of that process, the person said.

Spyker Chief Executive Victor Muller told Reuters on Thursday that his company was still in talks with the U.S. automaker about an acquisition of Saab. He said earlier this week that a final outcome would not happen until next week.

"We are still in discussions," Muller told Reuters in a text message.

Separately, Dutch billionaire John de Mol said through his investment company Talpa that he was not involved in backing a possible purchase of Saab.

"Apparently there are parties that like to name someone such as De Mol to -- unjustly -- strengthen their position in the takeover battle," Talpa said in a statement.

The question of how Spyker would fund an acquisition of Saab is seen as the major hurdle to a deal before the month-end deadline set by GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre for a decision on the fate of the 60-year-old car brand.

A tentative deal to sell Saab to Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg collapsed in late November in part because of problems with financing.

De Mol is the second Dutch billionaire this week who denied an involvement in financing a Saab deal.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf cited Dutch billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn as a backer earlier this week, but he denied his involvement.

Swedish news website E24 said that board members at Saab had a short conference via telephone with GM representatives in the United States to discuss plans for the closure of Saab.

"The decision is to close Saab and that is what we are working with. That means that one moves forward with that action plan," Hakan Danielsson, head of the Swedish engineering union and a member of the Saab board, was quoted as saying.

Earlier, GM struck a deal to sell the tooling and technology for older Saab models to China's fifth-largest automaker, BAIC, for $200 million.

GM said last week that it could consider similar sales of Saab assets, absent a last-minute deal to sell the brand and its Trollhattan, Sweden production hub in its entirety.

Saab, which GM has controlled since 1989, posted a loss of $340 million in 2008 and is expected to incur a similar loss this year.

GM's attempts to integrate the quirky brand into its global line-up limited Saab's appeal to enthusiasts who liked its early hatchback styling and turbo-charged engines.

Saab sold just over 93,000 units in 2008, accounting for 1 percent of GM's global sales volume.

The unit of GM employs about 3,400 in Sweden. The Swedish government has announced public funding to help offset the economic loss from its closure.

Spyker in 2008 sold 43 luxury cars at prices of about $300,000 and higher and posted a loss of about $35 million.

Shares in Spyker closed down 1.35 percent on Thursday in Amsterdam. (Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit, Aaron Gray-Block in Amsterdam and Mia Shanley in Stockholm; Editing by Derek Caney and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (1)
BILDERBERG wrote:
Swedish ministers need treat this beloved brand far more impressively by expressing interest in re-acquiring the most powerful brand ever to emerge out of Sweden. Absolute reckless lack of leadership is beyond comprehension. Germans can make a car. Italians? Yes. Chinese? Yes. French? Of Course. Koreans? Yes. The Swedes cant? Come on! Swedish ministers need to be reconsidered for their current positions as leaders.

Dec 25, 2009 10:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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