AMSTERDAM/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden said a last-ditch bid by Spyker Cars for Saab offered a thread of hope the iconic brand would survive, as talks between the Dutch luxury carmaker and General Motors triggered an extended deadline.
Russia-backed Spyker said on Sunday it had lodged a renewed fast-track offer to buy Saab from General Motors, imposing an expiry of 2200 GMT on Monday, but said on Monday night it had extended the expiry.
The surprise new offer from Spyker -- which made 43 luxury cars last year against Saab’s sales of 93,295 -- came just two days after talks with GM over a rescue of the loss-making Swedish manufacturer collapsed.
“It is open-ended. It has been extended until further notice,” Spyker Cars Chief Executive Victor Muller told Reuters.
Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson earlier told a news conference the renewed approach from Spyker had offered a slim thread of hope of finding a solution for Saab.
“It is very late, there is a very tight timetable, and that means the situation is very difficult,” she said after meeting with representatives of Saab and local authorities.
Spyker Cars said on Sunday it had submitted a new offer to GM, including an 11-point proposal addressing issues that arose during the due diligence process for its old bid.
“We’ve had various discussions with them today,” Muller told Reuters prior to the extension of the offer expiry, adding that talks were “definitely” ongoing.
The Swedish government said it would allot 542 million Swedish crowns ($75 million) to measures, mainly for education and job schemes, to help deal with the thousands of jobs set to disappear if Saab was shut down.
Abandoning the 60-year-old Swedish auto brand would eliminate 3,400 jobs in Sweden and hit 1,100 Saab dealers, but General Motors raised hopes on Sunday when it said it would evaluate several new expressions of interest for Saab.
“We should be careful about fueling new hopes in a situation where the people in Trollhattan, and at Saab and their subcontractors are thrown between hope and despair,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told journalists.
Shares in Spyker Cars closed up 19.9 percent at 2.05 euros in Amsterdam as its renewed approach to Saab sparked talk the Dutch firm -- which had a market capitalization of just 26.6 million euros ($38.12 million) at Friday’s close -- may exponentially expand operations and perhaps become profitable.
“The stock’s value is close to nothing but if they succeed to buy Saab, invest, and turn the company around then the shares can become valuable,” said a Dutch analyst who declined to be named.
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing unidentified sources, said the ownership structure backing the Spyker bid had been altered to placate worries at GM and that Russian parties were no longer involved.
“That which was considered a problem has been solved,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov holds a stake of almost 30 percent in Spyker Cars.
Russian state-controlled Sberbank and Canada’s Magna tried to buy a stake in GM’s Opel unit until GM decided to keep it last month. Russia is keen to obtain Western technology to re-energize its local car industry.
Spyker Cars CEO Muller said if a deal is achieved, Saab and Spyker Cars would operate as sister companies where Spyker could benefit from Saab’s technical resources and its distribution network, while Spyker would bring entrepreneurial skills to Saab. “The synergies are very, very clear,” he said.
Spyker Cars said its new offer eliminates the need for a European Investment Bank (EIB) loan approval prior to year end, which would allow the deal to be concluded within GM’s deadline of December 31, but Muller said approval of the EIB loan could still take place in 2010.
“The ball is in GM’s court and I don’t know how GM views this. That remains to be seen,” said Paul Akerlund, local union leader at Saab in Trollhattan.
Saab Automobile spokesman Eric Geers has declined comment.
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