Your boss at headquarters is curious: "If this bailout succeeds, Saab will end up in Chinese hands. Will it work out?"
If the anatomy of the deal is any indicator, the outlook is iffy -- at best.
"Anatomy of the deal?"
First, you have Saab, a long-neglected and quirky company that had nearly been suffocated by its former owner, General Motors. Across the table, there are two Chinese companies -- the new owners -- with practically zero experience in manufacturing cars.
"You mean Zhejiang Youngman and Panda don't make cars?"
That's Pang Da -- don't forget to stick the g in there. Pang Da is a dealer group; its expertise is in selling cars. Look at the management team's resumes. They all come from logistics companies.
"Wait. How did a logistics company get the idea to buy Saab?"
They backed into it. Pang Da's Chairman, Pan Qinghua, helped raise a cool billion dollars in an August IPO ostensibly to acquire and consolidate dealerships. (Investors loved the story.) Then he turned around and made a play for Saab.
Yes, but Chairman Pan is no dummy. He immediately set out to find a co-bidder, a company that knows how to put cars together.
"And he found one in Youngman?"
Well, sort of. Zhejiang Youngman assembles a few buses for NEOPLAN and trucks for MAN. But the company is hardly a car manufacturer.
The Youngman Web site describes its leader, Chairman Pang Qingnian, as follows: A senior economist, China operation management master, a Top 10 Zhejiang businessman, and the Party representative of Zhejiang Province for the 12th Party Congress.
There is also a circuitous commercial link between Youngman and Lotus Cars via Proton, the Malaysian automaker.
"Lotus via Proton from Malaysia? That sounds like a science fiction movie title."
Yes, but this is no fiction -- it's China's auto industry. It's an arena where the State works hard to keep a semblance of order, but bold entrepreneurs with buckets of cash continue to barge in.
"Could the scheme be just crazy enough to be successful?"
Never underestimate the ability of a company from Zhejiang to find a way to make money from nothing. Even Shanghai business execs shudder when a Zhejiang entrepreneur shows up in the neighborhood. But it will take lots of luck.
"What does the average guy on the street think?"
Most Chinese never heard of Pang Da and Youngman until a few weeks ago. They will likely think of the old Chinese adage about triumvirates: Yi ge ren shi yi tao long. San ge ren shi yi tao chong. One man is a dragon; three men make a worm.
"That's funny. Three never works, does it?"
That's right, boss. Saab will not make it unless Pang Da takes out Youngman (or vice-versa) and the Swedes surrender all rights in the boardroom.
"Last question: How do you say Saab in Chinese?"
Oh that's easy: Long Shot.