IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saab is dead to GM

This week Turkish Brightwell Holdings decided to call it quits and drop the plan to bid on Saab. Reason being General Motors' reluctance to discuss a continued licensing of its technology to Saab. Now GM with spokesman James Cain says in plain words that Saab is dead to GM.

"We are not discussing with anyone," James Cain of GM told Swedish news agency TT.

"Our contact with Brightwell only concerns several letters they have sent with requests to start a discussion. We answered that we are not interested. There has never been any negotiations or discussions."

When asked why GM did not agree to meet Brightwell, Cain said:

"We stand by our policy not to sell technology licenses to any new owner of Saab."

When asked if not everything in business has a price tag, Cain responded: "Not in this case."

"They [Saab] have had several chances to survive. The business has been in terrible shape for a long time. That's why GM, when we had our own problems, decided to close down Saab. It was not GM's fault that Saab decided to stop pay their suppliers and their employees."

James Cain also revealed that GM was positive to the Russian financier Vladimir Antonov, who now is suspected of financial crimes.

"We had an agreement that had allowed him to invest in the company, but it did not succeed."

One party that does not give a damn about GM is Chinese Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile. The Chinese company has placed an indicative bid of around SEK 2 billion on Saab.

"We have placed a indicative bid. Eventually, we can discuss in more detail exactly what we can buy," said Youngman's founder and owner Pang Qingnian in an interview with SVT.

Several bids for Saab received by deadline yesterday

Today the Saab bankruptcy administrators held their weekly press briefing and here's a summary.

Both administrators, Hans Bergqvist and Anne-Marie Peotoux, were present at today's briefing. Picture from TTELA.

On the press brief administrator Hans Bergqvist could reveal that they have received several bids by the deadline which was yesterday.

"We had a deadline yesterday for interested parties to submit indicative bids. This means that they had to specify what they want to buy. We have received a number of bids, and there has been febrish activity," Bergqvist told the media.

Bergqvist would not say how many bids which have been placed, but he said that there are bids from both international and Swedish parties.

"We will evaluate the bids and consider how conditions and reservations can be met," said Bergqvist.

"The interested parties at slightly different stages in the process and we will have to wait and see what they have to contribute. If they have what it takes, then they will get the chance, just like the other parties," Bergqvist said.

The administrators also confirmed that one party has withdrawn (Turkish Brightwell yesterday announced that thay have withdrawn from bidding), but would not say if any more parties have dropped out.

"We perceive all indicative bids as well motivated and sufficient for further evaluation."

None of the bids do however cover the debts of the bankruptcy, said administrator Anne-Marie Peotoux.

"We will not comment on the future time table," the administrators said.

The administrators are still aiming at selling Saab as an entire entity.

"We have plan on how to make it happen. But that's not something we want to reveal."

"We are well underway in the process, and not delayed. We have a number of interested parties that are concrete enough so that the conditions for a continuation is good," said Bergqvist.

Turkish Brightwell Holdings out of the race for Saab

Turkish Brightwell Holdings, which has expressed interest in acquiring Saab has decided to call it quits. According to Zamier Ahmed of Brightwell, GM is not willing to cooperate and therefore Brightwell has withdrawn its bid for Saab.

"The bid has been withdrawn. We have been in contact with the administrators. Because of GM's attitude, we can not continue," said Ahmed to Dagens Industri.

Ahmed said that the negotiations with GM reached a deadlock on Monday.

"Everything was under control and we are awaiting final feedback from GM. They changed their mind in the last minute. Unfortunately, I must say I have never experienced such behavior from a company of that size."

It was the attempt to reach an agreement over the GM technology licenses used by Saab and the manufacturing of the Saab 9-4X at GM in Mexico which stranded.

According to Ahmed, GM did not say no to licensing technology, but at the same time GM did not give any definite answers.

"We have put a plan on the table to save Saab. GM has not only proven to be unwilling to cooperate. It is also my conclusion that GM wants to kill Saab," said Zamier Ahmed.

"Nothing has changed. We are not in discussions and have not been in discussions with anyone," said GM's spokesman James Cain to TTELA on Monday.

"We have received requests to open a dialogue from several third parties, but we have not opened discussions with anyone," Cain continued.

So one player out of the race. Anyone surprised? I am not...

We can hope that Brightwell's announcement is their attempt of saving face because they might know that they will not be selected by the administrators as preferred bidder for Saab.

The board members of Brightwell have been very vocal in the media with their continued claims to be in negotiations with GM and their naive optimism about reaching a deal. And now they blame GM, which is a bit foolish since GM has time and time again given a plain answer about Saab: We will not lincense technology and we do not negotiate with anyone.

GM killed Saab three years ago. It just took a little longer for Saab to die than they had anticipated.

At 9:00 CET today the administrators will hold their weekly press brief and maybe we can expect some news about Saab then.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Some Saab Museum cars to be sold

Last month the City of Trollhättan together with Saab AB and financially supported by the Wallenberg Foundation bought the Saab Car Museum collection for SEK 28 million. And not suprisingly they now say that some of the cars will be put up for sale.

The car collection consists of around 130 cars and according to the new owners, the City of Trollhättan and Saab AB, not all cars are of interest to the museum.

"It's not necessarily only cars that can be sold. Among other things, there is a complete workshop down at the Saab Museum," said Paul Åkerlund, Mayor of Trollhättan, to TTELA.

According to the agreement between the City of Trollhättan and Saab AB, Trollhättan owns 70 percent of the museum and Saab 30 percent. The City of Trollhättan will together with the region of Western Götaland be responsible for the day to day management of the museum.

Saab AB will be allowed to borrow cars from the museum and the museum could even borrow planes from Saab for exhibit.

So if anyone fancy an old Saab deemed of not to be of exhibit value, then your chance may be just around the corner!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Volvo wants Saab's tools and machinery

Swedish radio P4 Väst reports that Volvo Cars wants to buy all tools, machinery and other equipment from the Saab Trollhättan factory.

Volvo's plan is to move this equipment to its Torslanda factory outside Gothenburg. Volvo is thus not interested in the Trollhättan factory or continued live for Saab.

This information is all according to P4's sources and has not been confirmed by Volvo. Volvo has earlier confirmed that it is interested in parts of the Saab estate, but has not specified which parts. And that is understandable if this new information is correct, as it would mean the death of Saab and therefore is a very touchy issue for Volvo.

According to Göteborgs-Posten, Volvo most likely does not need the equipment in Torslanda, but eventually plans to move it to Chengdu China where former Saab manager Lars Danielsson oversees the construction of a new Volvo factory.

Let's hope Volvo shows some decency and does not push for a sale of this equipment until a possible sale of the entire estate is sorted out.

Videos of the last Saabs (for now) being built

A few weeks ago it became known that the bankruptcy administrators had decided that 47 Saab 9-3 convertibles, which were under manufacturing at the Saab production line when the company filed for bankruptcy, would be built. The job of completing the cars went to Ana Trollhättan. Here's a video from TTELA of the last cars being built.

Videos might not be available in your country. See comments. If you have trouble watching the videos you can try to access them directly from TTELA and SR P4 Väst.

And below is a video from Swedish Radio.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let the bidding war begin

Today the Saab bankruptcy administrators held their weekly press conference. Here's a summary of the most interesting points.

According to the administrators, thousands of relevant documents concerning the Saab estate are being scanned and made electronically available for a group of invited parties in a "virtual data room". 6 to 7 parties have been invited to view the documents and to place bids. The administrators are also in a dialogue with additional 5 to 6 parties, but these have so far not been invited to access the documents.

For those parties which are interested in acquiring the estate, now is the time to place their bids. The administrators are still aiming at a solution where the estate is sold as one entire entity, as opposed to in parts. According to the administrators, the business plan of the bidder is just as important as the amount being offered for the estate.

The interested parties have been given a time table for the process and a deadline for bids to been placed within, but the administrators would not reveal this time table to the media. The aim is however still to reach a decision whether to sell the estate as an entirety or in parts by the end of February. But the sale process will probably take longer.

The administrators informed the media that several bids have been received so far, but none of the bidders are seen as more relevant than the others.

There are no meetings planned with any of the interested parties in the near future.


My interpretation of this is that all the 6 to 7 parties invited into the "virtual data room" are interested in a solution where Saab is sold as one entire entity. The additional 5 to 6 interested parties are hence interested in only parts of the estate. Furthermore, that one or more preferred bidder(s) will be selected this month, but the sales process will go into next month.

There seem to be no favourite among the parties so far. The outcome is still wide open.

We known that Chinese Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile placed a bid in January and revised its bid last week. In addition, also Turkish Brightwell Holdings has said that it will place a bid when the administrators invite bids. So now is the time for Brightwell.

Also Indian Mahindra & Mahindra has confirmed interest in Saab. And we can assume that they are among the 6 to 7 parties interested in the entire estate.

These are the three parties that we know have signed a confidentiality agreement in order to be able to bid.

Which leaves us with 3 to 4 unknown parties. Canadian Magna International was mentioned at one point, but a Magna executive said early on that Magna's ambition is to be the best supplier in the automotive industry and not a car manufacturer. But only two years ago Magna had serious ambitions to become a car manufacturer when they tried to acquire Opel. So is Magna totally out of the picture?

Among the rumored parties, also German stakeholders have been mentioned. VAG has been mentioned, but how would Saab fit into the VAG portfolio?

In addition to these, I do not rule out the Russians. AvtoVAZ or GAZ? They certainly need technology, brand name and a distribution network. They can bring money and cost effective subcontractors and manufacturing to the party.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Next Saab 9-3 is a gorgeous somewhat retro-inspired car

For anyone understanding Swedish I recommend listening to Swedish Radio P4 Väst's interview with Anna Petre. Anna Petre was of course head of Saab's public affairs and was deeply involved in the attempts at saving Saab up until the end.

Here's the interview:

Lyssna: Anna Petre om tiden med Saab

For readers who do not understand Swedish, I will just translate two questions and answers from the interview:

Do you think GM is willing to give access to its licenses?

"I think it's easier for them to license the 9-5 than the 9-4. On the other hand, it can only give GM incomes, so I find it hard to see that it would be totally and completely out of the question. I don't think it is. It should be possible to negotiate with them and find some sort of solution.

There has been much talk about the new generation 9-3. Have you seen it?

"Yes, it's gorgeous. The car is a bit retro-inspired. The exterior is one thing, but I really hope that we can actually achieve the ideas we had about the environment and the Saab brand."

Revised Youngman bid

According to Svenska Dagbladet, Chinese Youngman revised its bid on the Saab bankruptcy estate last week.

According to reports, the revised bid was made February 14 and the offer should be aorunc SEK 2 billion. Youngman is reported to be ready to increase the bid if the bankruptcy administrators can make a good arguement that the bankruptcy estate is worth more.

Youngman Chairman and founder Pang Qingnian tells SvD that the company is prepared to invest SEK 12 billion in the development of new Saab models. Furthermore that the development and manufacturing of Saabs will still be done in Trollhättan five years from now.

"It is essential," Pang Qingnian told Svenska Dagbladet and said that rich Chinese people prefer to buy cars manufactured in the West.

"We do not have the capacity to develop the cars. And I would like to keep many of the former management," he said and made it clear that it could prove a problem that many former employees now are getting new job.

According to Pang Qingnian, it is the Saab brand, the technology and the safety record of Saab that is the key elements that makes him want to buy Saab.

"We will focus on safety and the advanced technology and build up a network of dealerships. Saab will be our main priority. Today we are using 20 percent of the turnover from the car manufacturing on marketing and sales. That's a benchmark," Qingnian said on how to make Saab successful in China.

"Without the employees it is not possible, so it needs to happen quickly," said Pang.

First order of business should Youngman get Saab, is to finish the Pheonix platform according to Pang. That platform will form the basis for the next Saab 9-3 and then a new 9-4 and 9-5 will be developed. Later a 9-1, 9-6 and 9-7.

Until then Youngman wants to continue producing the current Saab 9-3, with some modifications.

"It [Saab 9-3] is not covered by GM's licenses and we could produce it with a diesel engine and automatic transmission - these are not controlled by GM. BAIC (Beijing Automotive) are entitled to certain technologies, but we have estimated that it will take about three months to replace the body parts. Thereafter it will take another few more months before any production can be started," Pang said and continued:

"We will first utilize the factory in Trollhättan and then we can start production in China."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chinese Youngman to return to Sweden next week

Local Trollhättan newspaper TTELA reports that Chinese Saab suitor Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile will return to Sweden at the beginning of next week.

Youngman made an indicative offer on the Saab bankruptcy estate already January 27th. Since then the Chinese have been in discussions with the administrators responsible for selling the Saab assets.

"This week is quiet, but on Monday and Tuesday there is reason to return to this issue," said Youngman's Swedish spokesman Johan Nylén to TTELA.

In addition to Youngman, also Turkish Brightwell Holdings NV has confirmed its interest in acquiring Saab, and yesterday Indian Mahindra & Mahindra also confirmed its interest in a TV interbiew. But these parties have not confirmed to have made any bids yet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mahindra executive talks about Saab

Pawan Goenka, President of the Automotive and Farm Equipment sectors of the Mahindra & Mahindra Group, has talked to CNBC TV18 about the thought of acquiring Saab.

I think it's safe to assume that M&M is still very much interested in Saab. And from the news report it looks like there has even been a meeting with the Heavy industry Minister of India regarding Saab.

Here's what CNBC TV18 writes about the news piece:
Pawan Goenka, president of the automotive business at  Mahindra & Mahindra  tells CNBC-TV18 that they may be looking to acquire SAAB's assets because of the benefits that they can derive from it.

"SAAB can bring in some technologies that go into SUVs, it can bring in infrastructure for R&D and it also brings in the global distribution network, but we will see if this is sufficient for us to be interested," he said to Swati Khandwlwal Jain.

"The product range of SAAB is not like a regular Sedan, which you have and they are more off road vehicles though they are not SUVs," he added.

Mahindra's ambitions

Last weekend there were Swedish news reports claiming that Indian vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra had decided to withdraw from going after the Saab bankruptcy estate. Reason being General Motors relunctance to license its technology to any buyer of Saab. Then yesterday the bankruptcy administrator Anne-Marie Pouteaux told the press that non of the parties which has shown interest in Saab has withdrawn as of yet.

From reports in Indian media and also from a statement from the CEO of Brightwell, the Turkish competitor for the estate, we have learned that Mahindra signed a confidentiality agreement prior to January 22nd. An agreement which had to be signed in order to be able to place a bid. But just how serious is Mahindra about Saab?

Swedish Radio P4 Väst yesterday wrote that Mahindra was after Saab already back in 2009 when Saab's former owner General Motors put the company up for sale. Back then Mahindra also signed a confidentiality agreement and even had lengthy negotiations with GM. But in the end Mahindra decided, for unknown reasons, to not make a bid.

But now Mahindra is back. But what does Mahindra want? For anyone asking that question I would recommend reading an article in yesterday's edition of Forbes India.

From the Forbes India article it looks that Mahindra is in the process of building up their development capability, and they are doing it by acquiring companies and technology:

A senior automotive consultant puts it aptly. "They knew they are not in a great position when it comes to R&D. So for the last 4-5 years the idea has been just to invest in it. The technical center in Chennai, the 600 odd engineering set up at Ssangyong, the Italian design firm buyout or the projects they do with others like Ford, Renault or Navistar... M&M is building a huge organization capable of doing development work."

While Mahindra at the moment has a limited range of vehicle, mostly SUV's and some old car technology bought from Renault - the Verito, their ambitions are far bigger:

"With the little changes they have done, Verito is doing well but it is not going to last forever. They need a newer generation of platform... who knows even shorten the platform. But they have no skill in this area. I think Saab can help them there," says Deepesh. Fair point! I mean for $425 million, you get an established though niche brand, manufacturing facility in Europe and Saab's technical center. However much M&M will try and convince you that it wants to be the utility vehicles specialist, I think the company’s ambition is far bigger. That is to become a full line automobile player. The question is can Saab help M&M get there?

So Mahindra reminds us of Chinese Youngman. A company building vehicles using aging technology from other companies, in desperate search of new technology and knowhow in order to fullfill their ambitions of becoming an important player in the future automotive market in their home country and maybe even in the world.

The big questions for the Saab fans is what are their ambitions for Saab? Is it to make Saab a successful brand based in Sweden (like Tata has done with JLR), or just to get the technology?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Administrators still aiming at selling Saab as entire entity

Today the administrators of the Saab bankruptcy had once again called a press conference. This time administrator Anne-Marie Pouteaux answered questions from the press.

The two most important pieces of news from today's press conference were that the administrators are still aiming at selling Saab as one entity, as opposed to in parts, and that none of the interested parties has dropped out.

"A totality solution is still the aim. We have not changed our position in that respect. We are hopeful that it will be possible to sell the estate as one entity," said Pouteaux. An answer which is good to hear for Saab fans all around the world, since this still gives hope of a continued live for Saab.

Bankruptcy administrator Anne-Marie Pouteaux

Last week there were reports that Indian Mahindra would withdraw from the bidding, since GM showed such firm reluctance to licensing technology to any buyer of Saab. But Pouteaux told the press that none of the interested parties has withdrawn so far.

"None of the interested parties has withdrawn," said Pouteaux and continued "There are in other words 6-7 partines at the moment. There are both Swedish and foreign groups which are interested."

So assuming that Mahindra was an interested party in the first place, we can assume that they are still in the race.

Pouteaux would however not comment on any specifics.

"It's about commercial interests. We believe that it may damage an agreement if we are too open about what is going on," said Anne-Marie Pouteaux.

And the administrators still hope to have reached a sales agreement before the end of this month.

"We hope that the process will be quick, and our goal is to wrap it up by the end of February".

GM not in discussions with anyone

When Saab filed for bankruptcy on December 19th 2011, it was after former owner and main technology provider General Motors (GM) made a statement that it would not continue supplying technology to Saab should Saab become partly Chinese owned. Later GM extended its no to any potential buyer of Saab.

GM's firm reluctance to continue supplying technology was last week reported to be a reason for Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra supposedly dropping out of the race to acquire the Saab bankruptcy estate. But one of the other parties interested in acquiring Saab, Turkish private equity firm Brightwell Holdings NV, has insisted that it has been in talks with GM concerning a technology deal and has expressed confidence that a deal with GM will be reached. But now GM with spokesman James Cain once again reaffirms that GM is not in discussions with anyone.

"It is been reported that we are in discussions with Brightwell, but categorically, we do not discuss with them. We do not discuss with anyone," James Cain said to local Trollhättan newspaper TTELA.

Cain could however reveal that GM has received several requests to start discussions.

"We have received requests to have a dialogue from several third parties, but we have not begun discussions with anyone," said Cain.

The good news is that according to TTELA, the impression the newspaper got from Cain was that the doors are not completely closed. The newspaper reports that Cain "does not rule out a future dialogue".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mahindra dropping out of race?

According to Swedish business news Dagens Industri, Indian vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra might drop out of the race to buy the bankruptcy estate of Saab Automobile.

The reason that Mahindra now is reported to hesitate on making a bid is General Motors reluctance to license technology to Saab.

"It will be difficult for us and other car companies to take over Saab if GM is not cooperating," said an unnamed person from Mahindra to Dagens Industri.

Mahindra was hoping to secure a technology agreement from GM, but has now come to realize that GM has no intention of seeing any future Saab cars being built.

So far the only known bid has been placed by Chinese Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile. This was an indicative offer, which is only a non-binding starting bid. Now Youngman has left Sweden and traveled back to China, but according to their spokesman in Sweden, Johan Nylén, they will return soon. Nylén would not comment on where in the process of acquiring Saab the company is.

"We can not comment on that, but we are proceeding forward," Nylén told TTELA.

Turkish Brightwell Holdings NV, which has been the party that has been most vocal in the media, yesterday told TTELA that it will place a bid on Saab.

"We will place a bid, but we want to do it the right way. It requires a lot of analysis. Saab is a huge company," Zamier Ahmed of Brightwell told TTELA.

Memories from Rally Sweden

This weekend Rally Sweden is held. It started on Thursday evening with a special stage in Karlstad and yesterday the car went flat out over the border to Norway and to my home town. And so yesterday I spent the whole day outside enjoying the rally.

This year Rally Sweden celebrates its 60th competition. It all started in 1960 as a competition held in summer and named Midnattssolrallyt (Rally of the midnight sun). Swede Per-Fredrik Cederbaum won the first race in a BMW. The following years Porsche cars dominated and won year after year. But then in 1957 Sweden took over. First Volvo rally cars won two times in a row before Saab entered the scene. Erik "on the roof" Carlsson won in 1959 in a Saab 93.

The following two years Carl-Magnus Skogh won in a Saab. Then the audience saw German cars again winning in 1962-63 and Volvo taking two wins before Åke Andersson and Saab once again took first place in 1966, this time in a Saab 96.

Then followed four years which saw no Saab wins. But in 1971 Saab was back on top. Now with Stig Blomqvist as driver. He won three times in a row! In 1976 Per Eklund won and in 1977 Blomqvist was back on top. Saab won last time in 1979 with Blomqvist steering a Saab 99 turbo to victory. The Saab 99 turbo became the first turbo charged car to win a rally.

Today all of the top rally cars have turbo. And so Saab's influence on the rally sport can still be seen. And who knows, maybe on day Saab can come back and be part of rally again.

Here's a video featuring Stig Blomqvist and the Saab 99 Turbo.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brightwell prepared to invest several hundred million euros in Saab

Yesterday Zamier Ahmed of Brightwell Holdings arrived in Sweden accompanied with Chairman of Brightwell, Alphan Manas. Today they will travel to Gothenburg and Trollhättan to meet their team of economists and engineers.

Zamier Ahmed of Brightwell Holdings

"I'm meeting my team who are on site and will get feedback from them, help them with the final valuation and meet other parties associated with Saab," Zamier Ahmed told Dagens Industri yesterday in Stockholm.

According to Ahmed, Brightwell has had a team of nine people on site in Sweden the past month. Their task has been to collect information and to assess the Saab assets.

"We have one engineering team and one financial team, both are reporting to me."

Also supporting Brightwell is Saab's former CEO, Chairman and major owner Victor Muller. In a text message to TT yesterday the Dutchman wrote the following:

"In my judgment, they have the best chance to restart Saab as an entire entity," Muller wrote.

One thing that cast some doubt over Brightwell's credibility is the question about their financial strength. Yesterday Dagens Industri wrote that Brightwell claims to be partly funding by oil interests in the Middle East. But at present very little information about Brightwell's funding is known.

And this begs the question if we want one more company which has limited funding and unknown backers buying Saab?

But according to Ahmed, money is no problem. Brightwell is ready to invest heavy in Saab.

"We're talking about several hundred million euros."

Brightwell also claims to have moral support from the Turkish state. But last year following the Saab bankruptcy when the interest from a Turkish company was made known, Turkey's Minister of Science, Technology and Industry asked Turkish companies to show great caution if considering buying Saab. He said that any Turkish company interested in Saab "should do a thorough profit and loss analysis" before acquiring Saab. I guess Brightwell's adding machines show big black profitable numbers now that they have the moral support of the Turkish state?

According to Ahmed the aim is unquestionably to place a bid on Saab. But the bid is still some days away from being submitted.

"Not during my stay here, but not too far away," Ahmed said.

"I think this can be a very successful business if it is managed proper and financially sound," said Ahmed who also said Saab has fantastic products and a brand with "a tremendous legacy".

To me this sounds too good to be true. It sounds too much like another Spyker-story. And that is a story I prefer not to experience again. But if Brightwell wins Saab, then I hope that I can be proven wrong and I will be more than happy to apologize for my skepticism.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Brightwell arriving in Sweden today

According to Dagens Industri, representatives of Turkish Brightwell Holdings are arriving in Sweden today. The goal is to make an offer on the entire Saab business.

"Our plan is to start production as soon as possible with as many models as possible," said Zamier Ahmed, board member of Brightwell Holdings, to Dagens Industri.

Ahmed is scheduled to arrive in Sweden this evening together with CEO of Brightwell Alphan Manas. Tomorrow they will travel to Gothenburg were they will meet an undisclosed law firm. Brightwell is reported to be trying to schedule meetings with both the bankruptcy administrators as well as with the Ministry of Enterprises.

Alphan Manas, Chairman of Brightwell Holdings NV

To help prepare the bid, Brightwell has, among others, gotten Saab's former CEO and Chairman Victor Muller on board.

"I know Victor Muller well and it is difficult to stop his enthusiasm for the brand. We get much help from him," said Zamier Ahmed.

Some who is not so enthusiastic about Brightwell are the suppliers of Saab according to Dagens Industri. And I guess you can put also me, the author of this blog, on the list of skeptics.

In response to all the skeptics in the automotive industry, Ahmed says that Brightwell has put together a car group of 10 individuals including "people from, for example, Ford and Land Rover." These people are currently working in Sweden to prepare "a detailed bid," Ahmed told Dagens Industri.

"It's easy to make mistakes and we want to avoid that," he said.

It will be interesting to see what kind of bid Brightwell will make, given all the noise Brightwell has made in the media and given the confidence they have shown regarding making a deal with GM for the continued production of the current Saab models.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Administrator confirms reception of bids

Today the Saab bankruptcy administrator Hans Bergqvist had invited the media to a telephone conference. At the conference Bergqvist confirmed that they have received "a couple of offers".

"We have received a couple of indicative offers. But a bid is not just about money, it is more complex than that. One must have a well thought out business idea with a realistic implementation process. You can't take over the business and start running it just like that. There must be a long term plan," said administrator Hans Bergqvist to the press.

"We do not assess the suitability of the speculator. But if their business idea involves a third party who needs to give its approval of a take over, then we will naturally check if it's realistic," Bergqvist said and also confirmed that both Beijing Auto (BAIC) and General Motors (GM) do have influence over continued production of the current Saab 9-3.

According to TTELA, Bergqvist also said that two more parties have shown interest in the bankruptcy estate and that none of the initial four to five parties which are interested in the entire Saab business has dropped out.

Earlier reports have said that both Chinese Youngman, Indian Mahindra and an undisclosed European party have placed bids. And earlier today it was even reported that a Swedish-Japanese group working for a Swedish electric car has also made a bid. But any present bid from such a group has now been denied by Tore Helmersson, CEO of Innovatum, and head of communcations at Volvo Cars, Per-Åke Fröberg, denies that Volvo is part of the group. Volvo has however confirmed that it's interested in Saab's test equipment.

But the indicative offers, which are non-binding starting bids, which have been made so far are apparently interesting according to the administrators.

"The bids are interesting, that's why we proceed with them. We want to be reserved with information about the stakeholders and bidding. The expectations that the administrators should finish this in a few weeks, when two reconstructions have failed before, is unreal," Bergqvist said according to Swedish Radio P4 Väst.

If everything proceeds as expected, Bergqvist said he hopes to see an end to the bankruptcy affair in late February. The aim of the administrators is still to sell Saab as one entity as opposed to in parts.

Bergqvist did however not believe that any bid would secure full payment to all creditors.

"I consider that very unlikely."

Mahindra placed bid yesterday, Swedish-Japanese bid shortly?

Swedish business news Dagens Industri reports that Indian Mahindra & Mahindra finally placed a bid on the Saab bankruptcy estate Monday. But they are not the only one with a keen interest on the Saab leftovers. Now even a Swedish and Japanese co-operation wants the bankruptcy estate.

According to The Times Of India Mahindra had signed a confidentiality agreement prior to Monday and was believed to be in the process of finalizing its bid. But as mentioned, now Dagens Industri says that the company placed a bid on large parts of the bankruptcy estate yesterday.

Competitor for acquiring Saab, Chinese Youngman, is reported to still be present in Sweden with its top management. Youngman supposedly already placed its bid on January 27th. But it seems clear that this bid now needs to be revised should Youngman have any hope of acquiring Saab.

The Swedish-Japanese co-operation stems from the electric car group which includes local Trollhättan development foundation Innovatum, state owned Fouriertransform, consultancy company Semcon and Volvo Cars. In addition there are one or more investors. This group now wants to cooperate with Japanese battery manufacturer Panasonic to develop and manufacture electric cars. It is believed that this group only wants parts of the bankruptcy estate.

The initiative is said to have the support of the Swedish government and the Ministry of Enterprises. Large government grants could be available.

"The support can be through direct contributions to the development work, but also through substantial investments from the state-owned venture capital company, Fouriertransform," a source said to Dagens Industri.

According to Swedish Radio P4 Väst, the bid from the Swedish-Japanese group has already been made. P4 Väst have now been in contact with Tore Helmersson, who is CEO of Innovatum, and he denies that a bid has been made. But he did confirm that there are discussions being held concerning manufacturing of electric cars in Trollhättan.

Head of communications at Volvo Cars, Per-Åke Fröberg, denies to Svenska Dagbladet that Volvo is part of a electric car group interested in parts of Saab.

"No, that is incorrect information. We're not involved in something like that. We are however interested in some of the test equipment and a few other things if the administrators decides to sell the estate in parts," Per-Åke Fröberg told SvD.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Undisclosed European bid on Saab bankruptcy estate

According to Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri, an undisclosed European party has placed a bid on the Saab bankruptcy estate. Information is sparse at the moment, we do not know who this party is and whether it has placed a bid on parts of the bankruptcy estate or the entire estate.

The paper also writes that last week's rumors that the administrators wanted to sell Saab in parts are not true. The goal is still to sell Saab in its entirety to one buyer.

"The administrators can sell to whomever they want. It is the buyer's problem to restart the car production and the business," Fredrik Sidahl, CEO of the Swedish supplier asssociation FKG, told Dagens Industri.

In other words, if the buyer thinks it needs an approval from General Motors or Chinese Beijing Auto (which in 2009 bought the rights to the old Saab 9-5 and 9-3) to start producing Saab cars, then it is the buyer's responsibility to get that approval. The administrators will not meddle.

I hope we can get more clarity on the European bid during the day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Youngman only credible option for survival for Saab

For a few weeks now we have read that Chinese Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile, Turkish Brightwell Holdings and Indian Mahindra & Mahindra all want to buy the entire Saab business. The bankruptcy administrators have said that four to five parties are interested in buying Saab in its entirety. The question is how serious these suitors are and if their plans are credible.

On Friday Turkish Brigtwell repeated, this time to just-auto, that they are in negotiations with GM to reach an agreement to license GM technology should Brightwell get Saab. This despite GM's definite statement January 20th that GM will not license its technology to any buyer of Saab. But Brightwell keeps claiming that its in discussions with GM. To just-auto on Friday Brightwell also said that with some "minor adjustments" production could restart immediately in Trollhättan should Brightwell succeed in acquiring Saab.

This begs the question if Brightwell is just naive or totally ridiculous? First of all, GM has said that no buyer of Saab will be licensed technology to produce the Saab 9-5 or be supplied the Saab 9-4X.

"We are not in discussions with anyone regarding Saab and we will not license technology to any buyer," GM spokesman James Cain said to SvD.

At the very same time Brightwell claimed that it was in negotiations with GM.

In addition to this Brightwell now says that it can restart Saab immediately.

Jan Åke Jonsson and his team of experienced Saab managers and workers used months to restart Saab after Spyker acquired the company in February 2010. Saab wasn't up and running properly until summer 2010. Now Jonsson has retired, Gunnar Brunius, who was Vice President Purchasing & Manufacturing has started working at Volvo Aero. Even the man who replaced Brunius, Göran Ejbyfeldt, has left and will be head of quality and IT at Västra Götalandsregionen. I am sure many other key people have gotten new jobs as wel, so an immediate restart of Saab is impossible, and such a statement only shows us how inexperienced and naive Brightwell must be.

I am sorry to say this, but Brightwell Holdings sounds like another Spyker. Big words, big plans, no reality check (Ps: I am forever grateful to Spyker for saving Saab last time!). And so I conclude that Brightwell is no option for Saab.

Then what about Mahindra & Mahindra? We know little about them so far. They have made no official statements to the media. From media reports we can at least assume that Mahindra is interested and that they have been in Trollhättan. But what are they interested in?

According to Svenska Dagbladet, which cites several sources, Mahindra is only interested in starting a production center in Europe for its electric cars. Which would indicate that Mahindra isn't interested in the Saab brand, the Saab cars, the Saab development or the Saab technology. Mahindra probably just want tools, machinery, production lines and a few hundred experienced workers.

Apart from Brightwell and Mahindra, companies like Semcon, Beijing Automotive, Volvo Cars and many others are drooling over parts of the Saab bankruptcy estate.

Which leaves us with Youngman as the only known and credible suitor which wants Saab in its entirety. Brand, technology, cars, engineers, sales network, tools, machinery, workers. Everything.

Youngman has already place a bid. A bid that has not been accepted. And that is understandable when reports say that the bid was SEK 2.2 - 3.2 billion. Saab is worth more than that if sold in parts. So Youngman needs to increase its bid. And let's hope they do, because neither Brigtwell nor Mahindra seem to be a credible solution for Saab.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Volvo confirms interest in parts of Saab

To Dagens Industri, Volvo Cars now confirms that the company is interested in acquiring parts of the Saab bankruptcy estate. It was yesterday that reports came in that the bankruptcy administrators have requested that the interested parties only bid on parts of Saab instead of the entire business.

"We, like many other automakers, are looking at everything that comes up, and there are parts that we might be interested in," said Olle Axelsson, communications director at Volvo Cars, to DI.

Axelsson said that they however have decided to "wait and see".

"We follow the process and have good contact with the administrators," Axelsson said.

Axelsson could however not confirm the reports from yesterday that Geely and Volvo are interested in Saab's development organization.

The reports that the administrators want to sell Saab in bits and pieces came as a surprise and shock to anyone following the Saab saga. Lars Holmqvist, who is CEO of the European suppliers association (CLEPA), said to Dagens Industri that also his sources confirms these reports.

"My understanding is that they [bankruptcy administrators] seem reluctant to sell it as a whole entity. And my understanding is that they talked about the need of a approval from GM," Holmqvist told Dagens Industri.

Holmqvist does however not understand why an approval from GM is needed.

"If you only want to produce the old 9-3 model and other models [non Saab] like Youngman plans to do, and you do not intend to use GM's technology, then you do not need GM's approval," he said.

Holmqvist believes that it will be best for the creditors if Saab is sold in its entirety instead of in parts.

"You have to question whether the administrators have chosen the best solution [if Saab is sold in parts] for all the creditors," he said and pointed out that the suppliers are owed SEK 1.5 billion.

"Selling Saab as a whole entity is the only chance we have to get back some of the money," he said.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Brightwell in negotiation with GM

Last night it was revealed that Chinese vehicle manufacturer Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile placed a bid on Saab January 27. This morning reports came in that the administrators had set a condition that any bidder would have to reach an agreement with GM in order to buy entire Saab. Now TTELA reports that Turkish Brightwell Holdings claim that they are in negotiation with GM and that they will submit a bid within shortly.

"In fact, I spoke with them just now," board member of Brightwell Zamier Ahmed told TTELA.

"The discussions are of course highly confidential at this stage and I can not speak for GM. But I must say that I am quite happy, and I believe that we are moving forward."

Brightwell's due diligence on Saab is more or less done and the discussions with the bankruptcy administrators are progressing. Brightwell's plan is still to keep production in Trollhättan and ideally they want Saab to keep producing the Saab 9-5 as well as the 9-3.

"There is no reason to change it [move production] when there's already a world-class factory. How many employees we need will of course depend on the deal, but in the ideal situation, i.e. production of 9-4X and 9-5, we want to start the production as soon as possible. If it turns out that we only get the Phoenix, the production restart will take another several months," Ahmed said.

Ahmed told TTELA that Youngman's bid does not worry Brightwell.

"No, for several reasons. GM has said that they will not allow Chinese investors with respect to the IP rights. In my experience, the bankruptcy administrators are following a process with several stages, and one stage will be to ask for bids from interested parties. It does not worry me that Youngman is enthusiastic. We will await instructions from the administrators."

Youngman bids SEK 3.2 billion, administrators set impossible conditions

Dagens Industri reports that the starting bid Chinese vehicle manufacturer Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile placed on Saab January 27 is between SEK 2.2 and 3.2 billion. At the same time Swedish Radio P4 Väst reports that the bankruptcy administrators have set "impossible" conditions for a sale. Conditions which require an approval of the sale from General Motors.

Youngman's CEO Rachel Pang is expected to hold a press conference in Stockholm in Monday according to Dagens Industri.

"A detailed bid is expected to be ready at that time and she can present it to the public," said a source to Dagens Industri.

The Youngman bid is said to be from SEK 2.2 billion to 3.2 billion and will also include an assurance of continued production in Trollhättan.

Youngman would not comment on the bid but its spokesman in Sweden, Johan Nylén, told Swedish TV 4 Väst that they will work to get production going as quickly as possible and that they are waiting for an answer from the administrators.

But the question is if Youngman is waiting in vain. Swedish Radio P4 Väst reports that the administrators have set conditions that make a sale of the entire Saab business impossible and are now looking to sell Saab in parts.

"The administrators have practically set conditions that makes it impossible to conduct a full sale of Saab," said a source with good insight into the process to P4 Väst.

According to one source, the administrators require that a sale must be approved by General Motors.

The sources also say that the administrators have requested that the interested parties place bids on parts of the Saab business instead of entire Saab.

"The administrators have no intention to sell the estate as a whole, but they prefer selling it in parts. It is very surprising that they want to do it this way and completely unbelievable," one source said.

Swedish Radio P4 Väst writes that the administrators prefers that Volvo's owner Geely sets up a development centre in Trollhättan. Local Trollhättan newspaper TTELA reports that the negotiations between the administrators and Geely/Volvo is intensive, while the bid from Youngman is more or less being ignored. Another solution the administrators are said to be working for is that Chinese Beijing Automotive (BAIC) together with Panasonic start to build electric cars in Trollhättan.

"Yes, we are considering it, but it's a rather complicated business," said Mao Hai, vice president of Beijing Automotive Investment, to TTELA.

For me this is totally unbelievable. If this comes on top of everything that has happened to Saab the past years, then there must be a wide conspiracy against Saab. A conspiracy involving lawyers, courts, Ministries and the Government. And I refuse to believe that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Youngman has placed bid on Saab

According to Swedish Radio news, Ekot, Chinese vehicle manufacturer Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile has placed a bid on the Saab bankruptcy estate. Ekot's sources say that it is a bid worth several billions of Swedish kronor and it does include continued production in Trollhättan.

The sources also say that the bid was placed several days ago, but the bankruptcy administrators have so far not responded on the bid. According to SinoCast Daily Business Beat, Chairman of Youngman Pang Qingnian has said that the bid was placed Friday January 27th. SinoCast also reports that Pang Qingnian on January 30th predicted that the result would be known next month. He also stressed that the new acquisition scheme does not need the approval of General Motors.

Earlier it has been suggested that Youngman would be willing to bid SEK 5 billion for the estate and continue producing the Saab 9-3. Saab is said to have the rights to most of the technology used in the Saab 9-3, which would be the reason that the car could be continued produced despite General Motors statement that now buyer of Saab will be supplied licenses or technology. Production of the Saab 9-3 will however probably imply the use of engines, transmissions and drive trains from other suppliers that GM.

Production of Lotus cars at the Saab factory has also been mentioned as a possibility.

Youngman's upcoming SUV

Youngman is, as we all know by now, about to place a bid for the Saab bankruptcy estate. The Chinese company has said that it wants the entire Saab business including the manufacturing plant in Trollhättan, the new technology which is in development and the Saab brand name. But that does not stop Youngman from developing their own brand of cars.

China Car Times today published pictures of Youngman's upcoming SUV, the Europestar/Lotus APX. The car is based on Proton technology and will likely offer the choice of 1.8L to 2.4L engines. Price from RMB 120,000 - 150,000 (approx. $19,000 - 24,000).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

German fan donates money to Saab Car Museum

Last week was a happy day for thousands of Saab fans all around the world when the Municipal of Trollhättan together with Saab AB, the Wallenberg Foundation and the Västra Götaland region won the bidding for the Saab Museum. And yesterday the Trollhättan municipal council decided, as expected, to support the purchase and the museum was saved for now.

Today local Trollhättan newspaper TTELA reports that a German Saab fan has sent a letter containing a SEK 500 note to the Municipal of Trollhättan.

In the letter the Saab fan from Darmstadt writes that the SEK 500 note was "left over" after his last visit to Sweden and when he heard that Trollhättan bought the museum he would like to make a donation to the museum.

That is the great Spirit of Saab!