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Saab Story with a Happy Ending?

New owners hoping to get rights to Saab name.

by on Jun.12, 2012

There are many questions yet unanswered, including whether the new Saab owners will resume production at the Trollhattan assembly plant.

Those hoping to save insolvent Swedish automaker Saab have gotten some electrifying news.  The court administrators overseeing the company’s bankruptcy have given the green light to a Japanese-Chinese consortium that appears to focus on clean energy to buy the remaining Saab assets for a reported figure of around $250 million.

The one remaining obstacle is whether they will also get the right to the Saab name itself and the brand’s logo, which belong to defense firm Saab AB and truck manufacturer Scania AB.

What’s also uncertain is what the new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB has in mind for Saab.  The firm was only recently registered in Sweden and is actually a joint venture owned by Hong Kong-based National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd., with a 51% stake, and Japan’s Sun Investment LLC.

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The Chinese company has, until now, been focused on biomass power plants and related projects for China.  Japan’s Sun has been funding high-tech environmental and sustainable energy programs.  Neither firm appears to have any past connection to the auto industry.

Among the questions yet to be answered: (more…)

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 Museum Emptied – But Brand May Yet Survive

The Ursaab goes on the auction block.

by on Jan.20, 2012

The original 1947 Saab concept, known as the Ursaab, drives off into the sunset.

The process of dismantling bankrupt Saab is well underway and the remains of the Swedish maker’s museum will be sold off, starting today, with 100 vehicles from Saab’s collection – including the original concept known as the Ursaab – going on the auction block.

Yet, even as the symbols of the maker’s 60-year history begin to disappear there still remains a chance that Saab could again rise like a phoenix – the name the maker chose for one of its museum pieces, the Phoenix concept vehicle it rolled out during the 2011 auto show season.

Two active bidders are still hoping to buy up the Swedish company’s assets and put it back into business, including China’s Zhejiang Youngman Lotus and Turkish Brightwell Holdings.

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“A bid for Saab is in the pipeline”, said Brightwell board member Zamier Ahmed, on Thursday.  The firm, which specializes in energy, transportation and technology, would like to not only buy up the failed maker’s assets but keep Saab based in Sweden, its Trollhattan assembly plant considered one of Europe’s most modern.


Turkish, Indian Automakes Studying Saab Rescue

“Something could happen this month,” says Saab source.

by on Jan.02, 2012

At least two potential buyers are reportedly looking to take over bankrupt Saab.

Could it really turn out to be a “Happy New Year” for Saab?  Barely two weeks after finally filing for bankruptcy, a move most had expected would result in the liquidation of the long-struggling Swedish automaker, Saab could find salvation in the form of investors from either Turkey or India, industry insiders and company officials reveal.

A report out of Europe suggests an unidentified Turkish entity – which apparently has the support of that country’s government – is interested in purchasing Saab’s assets.  So is Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the two largest Indian national automotive companies.

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Details remain sketchy, but a senior Saab official tells that “something could happen this month.” In fact, he added, a revival of the now-bankrupt automaker would have to be put in place this month or the bankruptcy process might make it impossible to put all the pieces back together again.


Saab Files For Bankruptcy

No options left, Muller pulls plug.

by on Dec.19, 2011

Image By: Len Katz

Saab Chairman Victor Muller expects to write down his investment in the company as it files for bankruptcy.

Having used up all its options, long-struggling Saab has filed for bankruptcy, ending a desperate bid for survival that began even before it was sold off by General Motors in early 2010.

Victor Muller, the Dutch entrepreneur whose small firm purchased Saab from GM personally appeared in the Vanersborg District Court, in southwestern Sweden, this morning to hand in the bankruptcy papers.  The move came days after Saab had won one last reprieve, the court firing the original administrator and giving the automaker a chance to come up with a workable deal with the Chinese automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus, which had offered to purchase Saab outright.

It is up to the courts to now decide what to do with Saab’s assets, and though there remains some hope they could be purchased in their entirety it is uncertain whether the now-bankrupt maker has much to offer anyone else in the industry.  While its headquarters factory in Trollhattan, Sweden is considered one of the Continent’s more modern there is already a glut of capacity and many manufacturers are looking ways to cut production rather than add to it.

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While Muller didn’t speak with the media, a statement from Saab suggested that General Motors was to blame for the company’s final collapse.  GM had notified Saab that it would not approve a sale to the Chinese.


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 Lining Up New Chinese Partner

by on Dec.05, 2011

Saab has lined up yet another Chinese deal - but may face problems getting it approved.

Struggling Swedish automaker Saab has lined up yet another White Knight in an effort to forestall bankruptcy.

With several earlier deals now stalled, Saab officials revealed they are talking with an undisclosed Chinese bank hoping it will partner with China’s Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. to buy a stake in the Swedish maker.

But the latest proposal would face some of the same hurdles that have tripped up other possible rescue deals.  Among other things, it would require the approval of Saab’s former parent, General Motors, which has been reluctant to give the go to any deal that might hand proprietary technologies over to the Chinese.

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Saab was struggling even before GM agreed to sell off the subsidiary in early 2010.  But things got significantly worse early this year when a number of key suppliers launched a boycott over unpaid bills.  The maker’s headquarters plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, hasn’t been in steady operation since late March.


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.


Time Running Out, Saab May Yet Be Forced to Liquidate

Purchase price might not cover debt.

by on Nov.14, 2011

Even if GM approves the sale of Saab the Chinese deal may not offer enough money to pay off creditors.

Already facing the possibility former owner General Motors will block its sale to a Chinese automotive consortium, fast-fading Saab may be forced into liquidation no matter what because the proposed $181 million purchase price would not cover its outstanding debts.

Saab has been frantically searching for a white knight since last March when unpaid partsmakers began a boycott that quickly shut the company’s headquarters assembly plant down.  With several proposed alternatives on hold the maker late last month announced it would sell its assets to an alliance formed by Chinese dealer network Pang Da and automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus.

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But there are growing doubts the deal can go through. And even if the sale wins approval from GM as well as Chinese authorities it may still be blocked by Saab’s creditors.


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.