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.

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.