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Saab’s Chinese rescue deal collapses

New partner: Saab hinted at its future design direction with the PhoeniX concept earlier this year - providing it can keep itself afloat through its financial troubles.

Saab back in talks with prospective Chinese partners after Hawtai deal falls through

Saab logo13 May 2011

THE future of Saab Automobile is again in doubt after the company’s rescue deal and proposed strategic partnership with China’s Hawtai Motor Group collapsed overnight.

Hawtai signed an agreement with Saab parent Spyker Cars on May 3 to inject €150 million ($A200m) into the struggling Swedish manufacturer in a bid to resume production at Saab’s Trollhattan plant and to develop a new vehicle platform that would underpin its crucial next-generation 9-3 and other future models.

In return, the privately owned, Beijing-based Hawtai was to take a 29.9 per cent stake in Spyker and secure the rights to produce and distribute Saab vehicles in China, as well as share technology.

In a statement released last night, Spyker said “discussions are ongoing” with Hawtai but that the agreement “with respect to funding and strategic partnership” had been terminated due to a failure to obtain the necessary approvals for the deal from stakeholders, which included the Chinese and Swedish governments and the European Investment Bank.

Spyker and Saab management have now resumed negotiations with other potential alliance partners in China, saying that the state-owned BAIC – which was part of an unsuccessful bid to purchase Saab from General Motors in 2009, but owns the rights to certain Saab technologies – “does not have any problems with Saab’s ongoing discussions with other Chinese partners”.

 center imageLeft: Hawtai logo, Hawtai B11, Hawtai Boliger.

Saab and its Dutch-listed parent said they were continuing “to work on securing short and medium term funding” and were negotiating equity and debt financing and/or technology licensing “with various (strategic) Chinese partners”.

According to the Reuters news agency, one of these is Great Wall Motors.

In announcing the collapsed alliance with Hawtai, Spyker reiterated that the deal was always subject to “definitive transaction documentation and certain conditions, which included the consent of different stakeholders”.

“Since it became clear that Hawtai was not able to obtain all the necessary consents, the parties were forced to terminate the agreement with Saab Automobile and Spyker with immediate effect,” the company said.

“The parties will continue their discussions about a possible co-operation, however now on a non-exclusive basis.

“As a result of this termination, Saab Automobile may enter into a strategic partnership with Hawtai or another Chinese party on manufacturing, technology and distribution in China.” Russian businessman and former major shareholder of Spyker, Vladimir Antonov, told Reuters via a spokesperson that he was still interested in investing in Saab.

As GoAuto has reported, Mr Antonov recently received approval from the Swedish National Debt Office to invest in Saab after previously being disallowed following claims he was connected with Russian mafia.

Spyker also said this week that discussions were continuing with the European Investment Bank (EIB) “on completion of the current €29 million ($A38.8m) drawdown under the EIB loan facility, on obtaining EIB consent for the sale of Saab property released under the collateral of the Swedish National Debt Office and on various conditions proposed by the EIB”.

“As soon as the EIB drawdown or other equivalent funding is confirmed, Saab Automobile plans to restart production depending on the outcome of discussions with its suppliers on terms to resume supplies of materials and services to Saab Automobile,” Spyker said.

The production lines at Saab’s Trollhattan plant ground to a halt last month when unpaid parts-makers refused to deliver components until the cash-strapped company settled their bills.

The Saab brand returned to Australia earlier this year under Spyker-owned distributor Saab Cars Australia, and launched the long-awaited all-new 9-5 luxury sedan last month.

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