Thursday, December 3, 2009

REPORT: The End of the Road for SAAB?

In a similar scenario to the Saturn - Penske story which ended with GM's decision to wind down the brand, tiny super car maker Koenigsegg, backed by China's BAIC, pulled out of a deal to acquire GM's Swedish Saab unit only a week away before a November 30 deadline. And even though the Swedish government has some hopes that a new buyer might be found to save Saab, the future of the brand looks very dim.

"For every day that passes the challenge gets bigger and bigger," Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson told reporters.

An insider told Bloomberg that General Motors' board will decide the future of Saab at its monthly meeting on December 1st. The person added that the automaker doesn't expect any other bidders to emerge and that a shutdown is imminent.

"They should just get rid of it," told the news site Tom Stallkamp, industrial partner at buyout firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC, which took part in an unsuccessful bid for GM's Opel division. "Saab really doesn't matter in terms of technology, and there is no synergy like there was with Opel."

Easy to say when you don't take into consideration the fact that behind the nameplate there are people with families as Saab employs around 3,500 workers in Trollhattan while thousands of other jobs are also linked to the firm. If you take a moment to think about that, it actually does matter...

Unfortunately though, the harsh reality is that if GM were to restart the sales process of Saab, it would be extremely difficult to find a willing buyer to complete the deal in a short time frame. If it were to take longer, the Detroit automaker would have to continue to fund Saab and that, doesn't seem to be a viable option for GM today.

Many like Stephen Pope, chief global strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald in London, seem to agree that Saab's days are numbered. "That's it, goodnight, goodbye," Pope told Bloomberg. "Saab has reached the end of the road, there's nothing left in the tank."

There have been reports that China's BAIC as well as Geely, might be interested in Saab. However, Geely is already in talks with Ford for its Volvo unit so we seriously doubt that they will turn their focus on Saab at this moment while in what concerns BAIC, analysts believe that the if the Chinese firm decides to show an interest, it will most likely be for Saab's assets and not the company as a whole.

Sources: Bloomberg & ANE

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