GM rejects latest Saab ownership plan
DETROIT/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) said on Tuesday it would not support a proposed ownership structure for Saab that included a Chinese bank, moving the Swedish auto company closer to liquidation.
"We have reviewed Saab's proposed changes regarding the sale of the company," GM spokesman James Cain said in a statement. "Nothing in the proposal changes GM's position. We are unable to support the transaction."
GM has said it would be difficult to support a sale of Saab that hurts GM's competitive position in China and other key markets.
Without GM's technology licenses and production contract, analysts have said, Saab would be unable to continue in its present form.
Saab owner Swedish Automobile SWAN.AS said on Monday it was in talks with a Chinese bank it would not identify about taking a stake in Saab.
The new proposal was part of an effort to address the concerns of GM, which still has preferential shares in Saab and licenses technology and previously built a vehicle for the Swedish automaker, which halted operations in April.
When asked about GM's rejection, Swedish Automobile Chief Executive Victor Muller said in a text message, "There is always Plan B." He said it was too early to provide details.
Chinese investors Pang Da Automobile Trade Co (601258.SS) and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile had agreed to invest in the car manufacturer, but the deal has encountered numerous problems.
Swedish Automobile had said it was still in talks with Youngman, but declined to say whether Pang Da was still involved. On Sunday, Reuters reported the Chinese bank would replace Pang Da, while on Tuesday Pang Da said it would continue talks with various parties including Saab on plans to invest in the Swedish automaker.
Under the new proposal Saab made, Youngman's ownership stake would have been reduced and another series of Saab shares would have been issued to a new company owned by the Chinese bank, according to a person familiar with the talks who asked not to be named.
Saab has been under court protection from creditors in Sweden since September after unions representing Saab employees began proceedings to put it into bankruptcy over unpaid wages.
Swedish Automobile said on Monday the discussions included a short-term solution to enable Saab Automobile to pay November wages and continue its reorganization.
Saab has lurched from crisis to crisis in the past year and has not produced any cars for several months as its main factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, has been shut because of unpaid salaries and bills.
GM, which operates in China in a partnership with state-run SAIC Motor Corp Ltd (600104.SS), said in early November that continuing to supply parts and technology to Saab's new owners would run counter to the interest of its own shareholders.
The U.S. automaker said last month it would stop supplying components and technology if Youngman and Pang Da succeeded with their acquisition bid.
Separate from Saab's new proposal on Friday, the administrator in Saab's bankruptcy and Sweden's U.S. ambassador met with GM officials on November 30, asking GM to continue to license its technology to Saab under any new owners, a source previously told Reuters. GM officials said their position would not change, however, the source said.
Pang Da operates auto dealerships in China while Youngman produces commercial vehicles, including buses and trucks, and sells cars under the Lotus brand.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Gilbert Kreijger in Amsterdam; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Steve Orlofsky)
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