business

GM Extends Saab Deadline

The automaker is giving Holland-based Spyker Cars more time to come up with financing to buy the Swedish brand

By David Welch

(Bloomberg) — General Motors Co. will extend the deadline for talks on its Saab unit until Jan. 7, giving Spyker Cars NV more time to come up with financing to buy the Swedish brand, a GM official briefed on the matter said.

GM is willing to review bids until Jan. 7, when it begins the legal process of closing the business by notifying governments and cutting off supplier contracts, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The new deadline coincides with a Saab board meeting, said an official at the Swedish unit.

GM said Dec. 18 it will shut the unprofitable Saab unit after talks collapsed on a sale to Spyker. The Detroit-based automaker has yet to receive a bid that has financing secured and will proceed with selling individual assets, said the official. Mike Stainton, a spokesman for Spyker, confirmed the deadline and declined to comment on financing.

About a week ago, GM had as many as a dozen potential bidders, most of which lacked funding or industrial capabilities, said a person involved in the negotiations.

One bid other than Spyker's is still being considered and neither is very likely to succeed, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Talks with GM may be focused on Zeewolde, Netherlands-based Spyker and Merbanco Inc., the Wyoming-based group that revised its bid after bringing in Swedish investors, two people familiar with the matter said Dec. 29.

GM isn't comfortable doing business with Spyker's largest investors, Vladimir and Alexander Antonov, who control finance firm RMC Convers Group, said two company officials who asked not to be identified.

Selling Assets

Other bidders are expressing interest in pieces of Saab should GM liquidate it as planned, the person involved in the talks said. GM could sell factory equipment, car technology, tooling and real estate in Trollhaetten, Sweden, where Saab is based.

GM can't sell the Saab brand name. It is owned by Saab Automobile AB, defense contractor Saab AB and commercial truck maker Saab Scania, said Eric Geers, a Saab spokesman. He declined comment on the sale process.

Tom Wilkinson, a GM spokesman, didn't respond to an e-mail and a voice message.

The failure of GM's initial talks with Spyker, the maker of $235,000 sports cars, marked the second time efforts faltered to sell Saab. Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Group AB, which had backing from Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., walked away from a deal last month. Beijing Auto paid $200 million to buy technology from Saab to use in its own cars.

—With assistance from Katie Merx in Southfield, Michigan, and Jeroen Molenaar in Amsterdam. Editors: Jamie Butters, Steve Walsh.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Welch in Southfield, Michigan, at 1-248-827-7131 or david_welch@businessweek.com

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