Saab emerges from administration under new ownership

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Administrators of the bankrupt Swedish car maker, Saab Automobile AB, will confirm this morning that a buyer has been found for the company after it closed its doors in November last year.

At the time of closure, Saab were in debt to the tune of SEK 13 billion (£1.2bn) with assets of around SEK 3.6 billion (£330m). Its debts include SEK 2.2 billion (£200m) owed to the Swedish government, SEK 606 million (£56m) to former owner (and part shareholder) General Motors and SEK 513 million (£47m) owed to its employees.

Last month Chinese automobile company Youngman quit negotiations to buy the car maker, after administrators questioned the likelihood of the bid being ratified by the Chinese government. GM were also understood to be against the Youngman bid.

Meanwhile a second Chinese company, the Consortium of Electronic Cars entered the frame with plans to build more than 100,000 hybrid cars within a year. 100,000 units is something of a sweet-spot, believed to be key to the viability of restarting production at the car company and generating earnings rather than incurring more debt.

Saab AB – the defence and security company who manufacture the Gripen fighter aircraft – partly owns the brand name Saab together with Scania and must give its approval to any change in ownership, where the new owner wishes to continue using the Saab name. The defence company is keen for any new owner to retain a sense of the brand’s historical legacy and it is this ‘issue’ which has delayed agreement until today.

Sweden’s National Debt Office (NDO) confirmed in a recent statement that it will continue to run Saab Parts, whose assets were used as collateral for the guarantee for a SEK 2.2 billion provided to Saab Automobiles in 2010. Shortly after Saab Automobiles filed for bankruptcy last year, the NDO repaid the European Investment Bank (EIB) loan and in return took ownership of Saab Parts, which continues to flourish and generate income.

Three potential bidders were believed to have been in negotiation with Saab Automobile’s administrators during the past few months – China’s Consortium of Electric Cars, Indian manufacturer Mahindra and Chinese company Youngman, although more recently National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) AB has entered the frame.

The Chief Executive and founder of NEVS is Kai Johan Jiang, a Chinese businessman with Swedish citizenship, whilst the Chairman of NEVS is Karl-Erling Trogen, former head of Volvo’s truck division.

Rumours suggest that a Swedish/Chinese consortium, led by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), are the new owners, although details will be confirmed this morning at a news conference in Saab’s hometown, Trollhattan, at 13:00 CET.

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UPDATE: (Source: Life With Saab) NEVS has acquired Saab Property, Saab Tools (except 9-5, 9-4X) Saab Powertrain and the Phoenix platform. NEVS has no interest in 9-5 and 9-4X, because GM has the rights to these platforms and will not sell them, and also because the platforms are too heavy for use in electric vehicle production.

A heads of agreement has been drafted between Saab Parts and NEVS, although the details of this agreement are currently unknown.

Mathias Bergman, who spoke at this morning’s new conference said, “NEVS will use Saab and Swedish technology together with advanced Japanese electric vehicle technology to develop and manufacture electric vehicles to conquer the Chinese market, but also the US market.

Saab is a credible company and brand name to present new technology and new electric vehicles.”

We understand the first Saab product under NEVS ownership will be launched sometime in 2013/2014.