Saab gets reprieve as GM seals sale to Spyker
Dutch luxury sports car maker Spyker will form a new company, Saab Spyker Automobiles, which will carry the Saab nameplate forward.Detroit – General Motors on Tuesday announced a "binding agreement" to sell its Saab division to Dutch luxury sports car maker Spyker, giving an 11th-hour reprieve to the storied Swedish brand.
As part of the agreement, Spyker will form a new company, Saab Spyker Automobiles, which will carry the Saab nameplate forward and avert the planned liquidation of Saab.
The announcement appears to end a series of on-again, off-again deals for the Swedish automaker, amid intense fears of job losses in the Scandinavian country.
GM officials said the deal calls for Spyker to pay USD 74 million (EUR 53 million) in cash and allow the US giant to retain redeemable preferred shares worth an estimated USD 326 million.
Assuming quick action, the transaction is expected to close in mid-February, according to GM, which said that it would suspend its previously announced wind-down activities at Saab.
"Today's announcement is great news for Saab employees, dealers and suppliers, great news for millions of Saab customers and fans worldwide and great news for GM," said GM vice president for corporate planning and alliances John Smith.
"General Motors, Spyker Cars and the Swedish government worked very hard and creatively for a deal that would secure a sustainable future for this unique and iconic brand, and we're all happy for the positive outcome."
Spyker said the terms call for an instalment of USD 50 million by the expected closing date of 15 February and USD 24 million to be paid on 15 July.
"We are very much looking forward to being part of the next chapter in Saab's illustrious history," said Spyker chief executive Victor Muller.
"Saab is an iconic brand that we are honoured to shepherd. We are delighted to have secured the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of loyal Saab employees, suppliers and dealers and to have given reassurance to the 1.5 million Saab drivers and enthusiasts around the world."
Sweden will guarantee a loan of EUR 400 million from the European Investment Bank to support the transaction, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson said in Stockholm.
Under GM's stewardship, spanning almost two decades, Saab rarely posted a profit and last year lost 3.0 billion kronor (EUR 241 million or USD 341 million) at the time.
"While many around the globe, especially in Sweden, will be thrilled to see the quirky but much-loved Saab brand saved, the new owners have their work cut out for them," said Michelle Krebs, analyst at the research firm Edmunds.com.
"It will not be an easy road to keep the tiny company going and growing in the intensely competitive world market."
In December, GM nixed a proposed deal with Spyker following the withdrawal of a bid from Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Group AB with Chinese backing.
GM has been undergoing a massive restructuring since emerging from bankruptcy with support from the US and Canadian governments last year. The company has decided to end its Saturn and Pontiac brands in the United States and has reached a deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese buyer.
GM in November reversed plans to sell its European Opel/Vauxhall division and to restructure those operations on its own. Analysts noted that Opel, unlike Saab, is integrated into GM's global operations.
GM also agreed to sell some Saab assets to China's Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.
Saab employs some 3,400 people in Sweden and sold just over 93,000 cars worldwide in 2008.
Up to an estimated 15,000 jobs were seen as at risk in a Saab shutdown, including those of suppliers and subcontractors. A Saab liquidation also could impact Sweden's other carmaker Volvo, owned by US-based Ford Motor Co.
Saab's history as an automaker dates back to the 1940s, when the first cars were produced by the Swedish aircraft maker Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget or SAAB. GM acquired Saab Automobile in 1990.
AFP / Expatica