Saab boss says 5 potential bidders for brand as Chinese carmakers deny interest
"There are about five we want to talk to. There are a couple more we are also looking into,” Jonsson told Automotive News Europe at the auto show here. "We should see which candidates are serious in the next week and a half,” he said
Jonsson did not specify which parties are interested in buying Saab.
China's Geely Automobile and Dongfeng Motor Group today denied that they are interested in Saab after sources had told Reuters that the two companies are among several potential bidders.
A senior Geely executive said that his company had not held any talks on the Saab brand and the carmaker is not interested in pursuing foreign brands.
Media reports have also said that Geely is in preliminary talks with Ford Motor about the sale of the automaker's Volvo car unit, although a Geely spokesman said his company had no plans to buy Volvo.
A spokesman from Dongfeng said the company had not held internal discussions about a possible bid for Saab, adding he is unaware of any interest by his company in bidding for the brand.
Reuters said private equity firms and representatives of retired Swedish workers have also expressed interest in Saab.
Jonsson said Saab is working with advisors from Deutsche Bank this week to identify a buyer.
Saab is speeding up its search for a new owner after General Motors said it will end its ownership of the brand on January 1 2010
“I hope in a month or two we will have at least some agreement with somebody,” Jonsson said.
He added: "The Swedish government wants to know what the future ownership structure is and General Motors wants to sell Saab. We have to accelerate the process."
GM has not yet begun an official auction for the Swedish brand but expects to have preliminary financials for Saab ready in a few weeks, according to Reuters sources.
Saab sought protection from creditors last month to survive the current economic downturn and buy time to find a new owner.
GM Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said in Geneva on Tuesday that the automaker has already funded the development of two upcoming Saab models, the 9-5 and 9-4x.
Henderson said GM was not willing to retool Saab's Trollhattan plant in Sweden for 9-5 production.
Sweden's government has offered to consider loan guarantees for Saab if the brand can find a new owner to underwrite its business plan.
GM bought 50 percent of Saab in 1990 for about $700 million. It paid $125 million and assumed debt for the remainder of the unit in 2000.
Saab sales fell 35 percent in 2008 -- any likely buyer is expected to take over the brand at a heavy discount.
Saab said it lost about $340 million in 2008 and projected a similar loss this year due to slack demand, an ageing vehicle line-up, overcapacity and high costs.