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by Tim Beissmann

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has become the latest name linked to saving Saab after he joined the bid of Luxembourg-based investment group Genii Capital.

Ecclestone described the struggling Swedish manufacturer as “a good brand that has probably been neglected by its current owners”, and word from within the bid suggests Genii-Ecclestone will “aggressively work” to secure a majority stake in Saab.

The brains behind the bid, Swedish investor Lars Carlstrom, said they saw tremendous value in the Saab brand and, if successful, hoped to finance the takeover with loans from the European Investment Bank.

“What Genii and Ecclestone have found is that Saab is an amazing brand, comparable to brands such as Porsche and BMW.

“They love brands and they really value Saab’s brand. They are really supportive and will definitely be able to bring Saab to new heights,” Mr Carlstrom said.

Dutch carmaker Spyker – the frontrunner in sale discussions for months – remains in the hunt, as does a third bid team, headed by former Saab aerospace executive, Jan Nygren.

The former Swedish defence ministry official refused to do more than authenticate that he was part of a new group of Swedish investors vying for Saab.

“I can confirm that I am part of the group that has showed formal interest for saving Saab from winding down, but that’s about it,” Mr Nygren said.

Meanwhile, General Motors presses on with its wind-down of the brand, with CEO Ed Whitacre last week admitting he was “not confident” of securing a deal to save Saab.

GM has come under attack after naming restructuring firm AlixPartners to assist in the closure, with some – including IF Metall chairman, Stefan Lofven – believing it is irresponsible of GM to move in two different directions at the same time.

But GM has assured the bidders that the appointment of AlixPartners will not impede its attempts to find a suitor, confirming that employing supervisors in these situations is commonplace in Sweden.

The Swedish Government will meet with GM board members in Detroit early this week to discuss both possibilities – closure and sale.

Saab spokesman, Eric Geers, said the brand was encouraged by the three bids but admitted the final decision rested with GM.

“We all hope these bids are strong enough for General Motors to consider them,” Mr Geers said.

 

(with Automotive News, Reuters)




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