January 26, 2010 / 1:16 PM / 9 years ago

Spyker "doing everything" to get Saab, shares held

STOCKHOLM/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch sportscar maker Spyker SPYKR.AS on Tuesday appeared closer to buying Swedish automaker Saab from General Motors , with the chief executive saying he was “doing everything” to seal the deal.

The logo of Saab is seen outside the showroom at the Mike Shaw Saab dealer in Denver, Colorado December 30, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Trading in Spyker shares was halted in Amsterdam pending an announcement. The stock skyrocketed 77 percent on Monday on speculation it was near to agreeing the acquisition.

Spyker, which only produces several dozen handmade supercars every year, hopes to benefit from Saab’s technical resources and distribution network, while Saab, with annual production of over 90,000 cars, would get an injection of entrepreneurial spirit.

“Negotiations are ongoing and the spirit is positive, but we are very, very tired,” Spyker Chief Executive Victor Muller told Reuters in Stockholm, where he is holding talks.

“It is such a complicated transaction. It’s not for no reason it has taken so long. It is extremely technical,” he said. “It can go either way, but you can rest assured we are doing everything to close the deal.”

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that GM was close to announcing a deal to sell Saab to Spyker, citing someone familiar with the negotiations.

Spyker was a defunct brand until 2000, when Muller, a former clothing brand executive and mergers lawyer, revamped it to restore the glory of a family firm that once built a coach for the Dutch royal family but was liquidated in 1926.

Saab, which has lost money for GM over the past decade, was put up for sale by its parent more than a year ago. GM has already begun winding down Saab operations, even while courting last-minute bids.

Spyker has faced some skepticism from the start, given that the Dutch company has never made a profit.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC, reportedly said at an event in Stockholm on Tuesday that being a profitable niche player — alluding to both Saab and Spyker — was extremely difficult.

“Marginal players will continue to be marginalized,” Marchionne said. “We cannot build it on hopes and dreams.”

SOLID PLUS FLASHY?

While Saab has cultivated an image as a solid, if not boring, Swedish carmaker with its 9-3 and 9-5 models, Spyker has gone the opposite route.

Its custom-made 200,000-euro C8 Aileron and C8 Spyder models feature handcrafted leather seats, chrome-laden bodies and are powered by a tuned Audi V8 engine which can top 300 kph (186 mph).

The unlikely pairing would combine Spyker’s 110-plus employees with Saab’s 3,400, but this has not been the first time Saab has attracted a niche auto market bidder.

A deal to sell Saab to tiny luxury car maker Koenigsegg fell through last November and GM said then it would start winding down, sparking a frantic scramble to get new bids.

Spyker’s Muller on Tuesday talks were proceeding well but negotiations could still “go either way”.

Analysts previously have been pessimistic about the chances of doing a deal. Some have questioned GM’s willingness to sell technology that could compete with its own models.

Spyker has updated its bid several times and it remains unclear whether it has been able to meet all GM’s demands.

It is now the sole bidder after investment company Genii Capital, backed by Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone, withdrew its offer on Monday.

Additional reporting by Johannes Hellstrom in Stockholm; Editing by David Cowell

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