Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Asian group said to buy bankrupt Saab

Bloomberg and AP

Andy Scott, driver of the Scott-Eklund Racing 2010 Saab 9.3, left, and Samuel Hubinette, driver of the Eneos Oil 2010 Saab 9.3, jump during the Hoon KaboomTX Global Rallycross Championship at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

A Chinese-Japanese investment group that may build electric cars agreed to buy Saab Automobile and bring the Swedish manufacturer back from bankruptcy, a person familiar with the matter said.

The group, led by Japanese investment firm Sun Investment and Hong Kong-based renewable-energy power-plant builder National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd (國家現代能源控股), was to make the announcement yesterday, said the person, who declined to be identified discussing the deal before an official announcement.

Anne-Marie Pouteaux and Hans Bergqvist, Saab’s bankruptcy administrators, said in a statement that the carmaker has been sold and the purchaser was to be identified at a press conference later yesterday.

Saab, the maker of the 9-5 sedan and 9-4X crossover vehicle, has not built cars since last year following an initial production halt in March last year, and it filed for bankruptcy in December after its previous owner, the Dutch supercar maker Spyker NV, later named Swedish Automobile, failed to get backing for Saab.

Trollhaettan-based Saab has been unprofitable for two decades, and General Motors Co (GM), which acquired full control of the manufacturer in 2000, sold it in February 2010 to Spyker.

In April, a summary of Saab’s balance sheet showed the company has debts of 13 billion kronor (US$1.9 billion) and assets of about 3.6 billion kronor.

The debts include claims of 2.2 billion kronor from the Swedish state, 606 million kronor from former owner GM and 513 million kronor from former employees.

Saab also owes GM 2.2 billion kronor it paid for preferential shares, but the US automotive company would only be entitled to that if the bankruptcy produced a surplus, the trustees said.

The Saab administrators said early this year that a half-dozen parties had shown interest in buying the company. Jinhua, China-based Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile (浙江青年蓮花汽車) said in February that it was in talks, and it made a 4 billion kronor offer last month, a person familiar with the situation said on May 31.

The Sun Investment bidding group formed a company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB with the purpose of buying Saab’s assets, a spokesman said last month.

With sales peaking at 133,000 deliveries in 2006, Saab sold just 31,700 vehicles in 2010.

No sales figures have been released for last year. Eric Geers, a former Saab spokesman who now works for startup Chinese carmaker Qoros Auto Ltd (觀致汽車), estimated in February that the Swedish brand sold 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles last year.

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