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Saab China Deal Unexpectedly Collapses

Swedish maker scrambles for alternative.

by on May.12, 2011

Image By: Len Katz

Despite deal's collapse, "I'm always optimistic," said Saab boss Muller.

The deal with Chinese automaker that was supposed to rescue cash-starved Saab has collapsed, the Swedish maker revealed this morning, leaving it scrambling to find an alternative source of cash to pay suppliers and re-open its shuttered factory.

The collapse of the partnership appears to have been caused by Hawtai Automotive Group’s inability to get the necessary approval from Chinese bureaucrats who closely regulate the industry. A similar problem prevented the planned Chinese takeover, two years ago, of General Motors’ now-abandoned Hummer brand.

Strained for cash to pay its bills and unable to get approval from the European Investment Bank to sell its factory and other assets to a Russian banker, Saab announced last week it would sell a 29.9% stake to Hawtai. The Chinese also offered a short-term loan in a deal collectively valued at 150 million Euros, or $216 million.

The proposal would have also given Saab access to Hawtai production plants in China, potentially opening up an opportunity to penetrate the world’s largest automotive market.  And, as reported, Saab was considering ways to distribute Hawtai – or other Chinese – products in the U.S.  (Click Here for more.)

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But most importantly, Saab had hoped to use the cash to pay off suppliers who have been boycotting its Trollhattan assembly plant since March 29, putting a hold on production of its core 9-3 and 9-5 models.  Saab Chairman Victor Muller told he was hoping to re-open the factory next week.