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Sweden says Saab needs new owner to get govt aid

STOCKHOLM, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Sweden is not prepared to consider loan guarantees to General Motors' GM.N Saab Automobile unit unless the carmaker finds a private investor to underwrite its business plan, the industry minister said on Monday.

Maud Olofsson told a news conference the government needed a private investor to answer for Saab’s turnaround and repeated the state should not own car makers.

“We need to know there is a secure ownership which takes responsibility for the business plan so that it (Saab) can show a profit in 2012, 2013,” Olofsson said in remarks broadcast live on public service radio.

At the weekend Swedish media quoted Saab’s CEO as saying rival carmakers were among potential investors in the company, which was granted protection from its creditors on Friday by a Swedish court.

Olofsson said since GM has declared it would cut its ties to Saab in a year, a new owner was a prerequisite for the government to believe the Swedish car brand had a future.

“Let us hope those who have contacted (Saab) are the kind of interested parties who are prepared to step in,” she said.

The government has welcomed a reorganisation of Saab, but has said it believes its turnaround plan -- in which it projects profitability in 2011 -- is too optimistic. Saab estimates it made a loss of 3 billion crowns ($543 million) last year and expects a similar result this year.

GM has said it will fund some of Saab’s liquidity needs but that it will not keep the company beyond January next year.

Sweden’s government also said it was preparing to apply for 4 billion Swedish crowns from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund to support Sweden’s south-western region, which is home to much of the country’s auto industry.

Reporting by Victoria Klesty; editing by John Stonestreet

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