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Spyker still in Saab talks, BAIC signs asset deal

By Simon Johnson and Catherine Hornby
/ Source: Reuters

By Simon Johnson and Catherine Hornby

STOCKHOLM/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Sports-car maker Spyker is still in talks to buy Saab, the Dutch company's top executive said on Sunday after a report China's BAIC had agreed with General Motors to buy some of the Swedish company's assets.

Saab, one of Sweden's best-known brands, has been hoping an 11th-hour savior would turn up after parent GM said in late November it would wind down the company if a buyer did not appear before the end of this month.

Since then, several interest parties have approached GM, with Spyker Cars NV hotly tipped to be the front-runner.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller told ANP-Reuters on Sunday the company was still in talks about buying Saab.

He said a deal with BAIC would be "good news" for the Dutch company, because it involved assets that he described as equipment for old Saab models.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers said he was confident that a buyer for the whole of Saab Automobile would be found.

"We can't comment on anything about the sales process," he told Reuters.

NOT THE END FOR SAAB

The comments come after The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co (BAIC) had agreed to acquire some of the Swedish company's assets.

Citing a source with direct knowledge of the deal, WSJ said on its website the assets included production equipment and intellectual property for Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 models.

BAIC, which has made clear it has no interest in acquiring Saab's production hub in Trollhattan, Sweden, could not immediately be reached for a comment.

GM, stung by the global economic downturn that has exacerbated problems of overcapacity in the auto industry, emerged from bankruptcy in July aiming to focus on core brands.

A deal with luxury sports car company Koenigsegg for Saab, which needs massive investment to update its models and reverse sliding sales, collapsed just weeks ago. Many analysts believed GM would sell Saab's assets piecemeal or just close it down.

A deal with BAIC, however, does not spell the end for the Swedish company. Swedish news agency TT quoted a source with knowledge of the situation saying "Saab is absolutely not being sold in pieces."

GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said the company was "not commenting on any possibility for Saab unless or until a deal is closed."

Spyker first said earlier this month it was interested in Saab, after GM's deal with Koenigsegg collapsed.

Spyker, which has roots dating to 1875, last year sold 43 of its luxury cars at prices of 200,000 euros ($294,200) and above. Its primary backers include Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov and his Convers Group.

(Additional reporting by Djaja Ottenhof in Amsterdam, Ken Wills and Michael Wei in Beijing and Ilaina Jonas in New York; editing by Simon Jessop and Maureen Bavdek)