Saab agrees stake sale, JV with China partners

AMSTERDAM/STOCKHOLM Mon Jun 13, 2011 10:09am EDT

Saab Automobile production plant is pictured in Trollhattan, May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Scanpix/Thomas Johansson

Saab Automobile production plant is pictured in Trollhattan, May 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Scanpix/Thomas Johansson

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AMSTERDAM/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish car maker Saab SPYKR.AS has agreed a rescue package from two Chinese car companies, handing over a majority stake in return for a cash injection to avert a potential collapse.

Saab owner Spyker Cars said on Monday it had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding for Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co to take a 29.9 percent stake in the company and Chinese car distributor Pangda (601258.SS) to take a 24 percent stake for a combined 245 million euros ($352 million).

The deal hinges on approval from the Chinese and Swedish governments and a green light from the European Investment Bank and Saab shareholder General Motors (GM.N).

Gaining Chinese government clearance could be difficult, however, as Beijing follows a strict and price-sensitive policy when it comes to overseas acquisitions.

"Spyker needed funding. The fact that they get this amount is positive ... but for existing shareholders there is quite a bit of dilution," AEK analyst Martin Crum said.

"We have to wait to see whether all the government and third parties give their blessing to this. It will not be easy."

Shares in Dutch-listed Spyker, which has been chasing several deals to resolve a cash crunch that halted production for seven weeks earlier this year, jumped 25 percent.

Spyker chief executive Victor Muller said the deal would secure Saab's mid and long-term financing and told Swedish news agency TT approval should take two to three months.

Failure to gain Chinese approval on time, however, torpedoed a deal Spyker entered into with Chinese firm Hawtai Motor Group in May, while Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery's bid to buy GM's (GM.N) Hummer in 2010 also fell through.

After the Hawtai deal collapsed, Spyker signed a deal with Pangda to set up a joint venture with Spyker and a partner in China to start making Saabs in China within two years.

Saab said on Monday it had agreed for Youngman to buy a stake in Saab for 136 million euros ($195 million) and to enter the distribution and manufacturing joint venture in China.

Youngman and Saab will each hold a 45 percent stake in the manufacturing joint venture and Pangda 10 percent. Youngman will also take a 33 percent stake in the distribution joint venture, with Pangda holding 34 percent and Saab 33 percent.

As part of the deal, Pangda plans to take a 24 percent stake in Spyker for a total 109 million euros, up from an initial investment announced on May 16 worth 65 million euros.

After production was halted for most of April and May due to unpaid supplier bills, Saab output has been shut down again this week despite payments of 45 million euros for 1,900 cars from Pangda that had helped pay bills and stave of the potential collapse of the company.

Swedish paper Dagens Industri reported Saab is now close to a deal to sell its factory buildings this week, providing the firm with about 280 million Swedish crowns in cash.

Swedish property company Hemfosa has been considering a sale and leaseback deal and such a deal could move quickly, real estate journal Fastighetsvarlden quoted Hemfosa chief Jens Engwall as saying.

Saab said talks about the sale and lease back of Saab property are ongoing and that Spyker expects to make an announcement about the sale of the Saab property shortly.

A Saab spokesman said the company was working hard to bolster its finances and reach agreements with suppliers to restart production soon. "We have 10,000 orders waiting," she said.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Lannin in Stockholm; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Louise Heavens)

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