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This Saab Story Apparently Won’t End

Several investors claim to be “near” purchase of bankrupt Swedish maker’s assets.

by on Jun.04, 2012

The Saab Phoenix Concept. Will the name prove prescient for the now-bankrupt Swedish maker?

At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Saab unveiled a concept car called the Phoenix, named to symbolize the maker’s seeming rebirth from the ashes.  It was clearly premature, as we now know, the maker soon forced into bankruptcy.

Yet, there may still be life in the old brand, a number of potential investors insisting they are close to pulling off a deal that could, indeed, bring Saab back from the dead.  Among the potential rescuers are a Chinese automaker that failed in its original bid to partner with Saab, as well as a new Swedish electric vehicle company.

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But whether Saab can, in fact, be saved is anything but certain even if someone can field a credible offer.  The problem is that some of the insolvent Swedish maker’s assets are controlled by its former parent, General Motors.  And so far, GM has refused to give permission to any of the deals that might have saved Saab.

By various reports there could be as many as a half-dozen different bidders trying to win over the two court-appointed administrators overseeing the Saab liquidation.


Saab Leaving Most Debts Unpaid

Only a select few likely to get cash back.

by on Apr.12, 2012

Among the assets of the now insolvent Saab: the Phoenix Concept car, (Photo by Len Katz).

The factory in Trollhattan stands idle but the bookkeepers and bankruptcy attorneys have been keeping busy in recent weeks trying to tally up the debts owed by the now-insolvent Saab Automobile and compare that to the company’s few remaining assets.

The math doesn’t work out well for those Saab owed money to.  The final balance sheet shows assets of $532 million (3.6 billion Swedish kronor) but debts of $1.9 billion (13 billion kronor).  It is possible that the tally will look more favorable, however, if the trustees overseeing Saab’s bankruptcy are able to find a buyer – with as many as seven bidders reportedly looking closely at the company.

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Nonetheless, the bottom line isn’t a good one: a lot of folks looking to recover money from the doomed maker are likely to wind up with nothing.  Among those least likely to come out whole are Saab’s Swedish employees.  They actually pressed for the bankruptcy filing in hopes of recovering months of back pay.  Those workers are owed $89 million.


Saab USA Studying Ways to Rescue Warranties

China’s Pang Da abandons plan to buy bankrupt Swedish brand.

by on Dec.21, 2011

Saab USA hopes to resume warranty coverage.

Saab officials are looking for a way to resume warranty coverage for customers who purchased the maker’s 2010 and ’11 products.

The maker announced yesterday it would be forced to suspend coverage for those who bought a Saab after the company was purchased from General Motors in early 2010. The Swedish maker declared bankruptcy on Monday after months of efforts to find a buyer who could save the cash-short company.

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Separately, the Chinese dealer group Pang Da announced on Wednesday that it had abandoned its efforts to purchase Saab.  Pang Da and the Chinese automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus had both proposed a rescue plan – but the proposed deal was vetoed by Saab’s former parent, GM refusing to allow its intellectual property to be transferred to the Chinese.

“We’re committed to develop a way to handle warranties for all owners of 2010 and 2011 Saab models,” Tim Colbeck, CEO of Saab Cars USA, told today.  The goal is to “reinstate (warranty coverage) as quickly as we can.”


Saab Wrangles a Reprieve

Swedish courts give it a chance to complete Chinese deal.

by on Dec.16, 2011

Saab's North American chief Tim Colbeck tells suppliers the maker has won at least a temporary reprieve.

It’s proving a lot more risky than most folks might have anticipated to bet against the struggling Swedish automaker Saab.  Just ask administrator Guy Lofalk.

Barely a week ago, he had recommended that the courts end Saab’s voluntary reorganization, which would have meant the collapse of the company, which has been struggling to find investors – or a buyer – since last spring.  Instead, Lofalk has been fired and replaced with what appears to be a more willing administrator while Saab itself will have some more time to pull together a deal, according to an e-mail sent by Saab Cars North America President Tim Colbeck to suppliers.

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“There was positive progress in the negotiation” with Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus, the executive reported, adding that Victor Muller, Saab’s global chairman, “remained optimistic an agreement would be reached in the short term.”


Saab Decision Delayed

Maker gets bridge loan but fate still uncertain.

by on Nov.23, 2011

A partially assembled Saab sits idle in Trollhattan. The plant has been shuttered since March.

Saab’s fate appears to be hanging by a thread despite finally receiving a cash infusion from a Chinese alliance looking to buy the struggling Swedish automaker.

Any decision on the fate of Saab has been delayed as the Swedish court that was scheduled to hear arguments over the company’s reorganization has temporarily put off a decision. No date has been set for a new hearing, Saab officials said.  There had been pressure from Saab creditors – and its Swedish unions – to force the company into bankruptcy, which would likely have shut it down.

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Meanwhile, Saab officials are growing slightly more confident about receiving final approval from the Chinese government for the deal that will allow an infusion of Chinese cash into the company. Last summer, dealer network Pang Da and automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus initially agreed to purchase a majority stake in Saab. They are now hoping to purchase the maker outright – but for barely a third of their original offer.


Will GM Block Saab Sale?

“Many unanswered questions.”

by on Nov.07, 2011

GM - which still produces the 9-4X crossover - says it has "many unanswered questions" about the planned sale of Saab to the Chinese.

The Saab soap opera could take yet another turn, General Motors warning that it could move to block the sale of the cash-starved Swedish automaker to a Chinese consortium.

That $142 million deal, announced on October 28, appeared to be the only way out for Swedish Automobile after failing to raise the cash it needed to save Saab.  But the carmaker’s former parent, General Motors, indicates it could use its remaining veto power to prevent the Chinese from creating a new global competitor.

GM sold Saab in early 2010 after agreeing to sell or close four of its eight North American brands as part of its government bankruptcy bailout.  The new owners proved to be seriously underfunded, a situation which became clearly apparent this past March, when key suppliers began boycotting Saab’s headquarters assembly plant over unpaid bills.

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Swedish Automobile raced to negotiate a series of possible deals to raise some much-needed cash.  In June, it inked a preliminary agreement with China’s largest auto dealer network, Pang Da, along with emerging automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus.  But their goal of acquiring a 53% stake in Saab was set back by reluctant bureaucrats who refused to give their authorization.


Saab Gets Another Reprieve

Chinese come through with $97 million bridge loan.

by on Oct.14, 2011

The bridge loan might just let Saab restart assembly operations next month.

For anyone disappointed to see soap operas vanish from American television there’s always the Saab saga to fall back on.

Just days after is seemed the maker was going to be forced into an involuntary bankruptcy it has been given at least another temporary reprieve, it has received the first installment of a $97 million bridge loan from one of the two Chinese companies looking to eventually buy a controlling stake in the struggling Swedish automaker.

Automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus reportedly has cut a $15 million check for Saab and should have the full $97 million deposited in the troubled Saab’s bank account within the next week or so.  It had appeared increasingly likely that the Chinese carmaker and China’s largest auto dealer, Pang Da, were not going to get approval from Beijing regulators to complete their acquisition of a majority stake in Saab.  With no new sources of cash, the Swedish maker would have been forced into what likely would have been the break-up of the company.

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The new loan should help Saab cover at least some of its bills.  It owes millions to 3,600 Swedish employees – which prompted their unions to try to force Saab into bankruptcy.  But it also owes millions to key suppliers.  Those partsmakers have been boycotting the company since late March over unpaid bills.  As a result, Saab hasn’t produce any cars at its headquarters plant in Trollhattan for more than six months.


Saab Shooting to Re-Start Production Mid-November

Maker now under court protection.

by on Sep.26, 2011

A Saab 9-5 in the Trollhattan plant.

Struggling under court protection to raise cash and pay off angry creditors Swedish automaker Saab hopes to get back into the business of building cars by sometime in mid-November.

That is just the latest in a series of plans to restart the company’s headquarters assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, however, and skeptics would be far from surprised if the maker misses that goal, as well.

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After being rescued from the automotive rubbish heap in early 2010, Saab’s new parent – now known as Swedish Automobile – fell short of its sales targets and steadily deeper in debt.  By late March of this year the company’s unpaid vendors decided to boycott, leading to the shutdown of the Trollhattan plant.


Swedish Court Rejects Saab’s Reorganization Bid

Maker to appeal – but is time running out?

by on Sep.08, 2011

Saab is building the new 9-4X but potential customers are still steering clear.

Time – and patience – may be running out for the embattled automaker Saab, a Swedish district court rejecting the maker’s request to go into reorganization, a process that would protect it from workers and others owed millions in cash while it comes up with plans to replenish its coffers.

Saab officials say they intend to appeal the decision by the Vanersborg District Court but observers have begun to believe that the financially strapped maker might now be forced into an involuntary bankruptcy – even though several Chinese companies are themselves waiting for regulatory approval on plans to acquire a majority stake in Saab’s parent, Swedish Automobile.

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“It appears unclear if – and if so when – the relevant Chinese authorities will approve the agreements,” the court said to explain its decision.

Saab has been struggling for a number of years but appeared to get a reprieve in early 2010 when General Motors sold the ailing firm to Swedish Automobile, then known as Spyker Cars.  But it soon became apparent that the new owners were woefully underfunded.  And, in late March, unpaid suppliers began a boycott that forced the maker to idle its headquarters plant in Trollhattan.


$157 Mil Bank Deal May Save Saab

Meanwhile, Saab owners halt sale of Spyker sports car unit.

by on Sep.02, 2011

A partially assembled Saab sits on the line in Trollhattan. The plant has been shuttered since late March.

Cash-starved Saab Automobile is close to landing a $157 million bank loan that could help it steer clear of bankruptcy, according to reports.

The deal, if completed, would provide enough cash to cover current salaries, pay off angry suppliers who’ve been threatening to force the carmaker into foreclosure and possibly even get the maker’s headquarters assembly plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, running again for the first time since suppliers began boycotting Saab in late March.  But as with a variety of other rescue efforts, it is taking longer than expected to lock down the billion-kronor loan.

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Saab’s situation has been steadily deteriorating since then despite the maker inking a variety of deals – including one with China’s largest auto distribution network, Pangda – which were supposed to raise the cash necessary to cover its bills.  One deal collapsed soon after it was announced, while most of the others have run into a miasma of regulatory delays that have kept much-needed cash out of Saab’s corporate coffers.

But in a surprise move, parent Swedish Automobile says it has suspended plans to sell its Spyker sports car subsidiary to the Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov.  The $46 million deal was intended to raise cash and permit the company to focus on its larger, Swedish-based business.