Page last updated at 21:08 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Sweden in crisis talks over Saab's future

Saab car at LA autoshow
GM has been trying to sell Saab since January

The Swedish government has held emergency talks with unions to prepare for the possible closure of Saab, despite new offers for the carmaker.

Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson expressed doubts about whether Saab could be saved at this late stage.

But a bid by Dutch luxury car firm Spyker, which was due to expire at 2200 GMT on Monday, has been extended indefinitely.

Saab owner General Motors said last Friday it would wind down the carmaker.

It has since received several inquiries about buying its subsidiary.

Shares in Spyker soared following the announcement of a renewed bid for Saab on Sunday. Initial talks between the two companies had broken down.

SPYKER GROUP
Spyker's C8 Aileron Spyder
133 employees
37 cars sold in 2008
23.8m euros ($34m; £21m) lost in 2008
3rd place for Snoras Spyker Squadron in 2009 Le Mans championship series
Source: Spyker

Spyker's chief executive Viktor Muller said he was "very confident" the new offer would lead to a deal.

"We have made every effort to resolve the issues that were preventing the conclusion of this matter and we have asked GM and all other involved parties to seriously consider this offer," he said.

"We are very confident that our renewed offer will remove the impasse that was standing in the way of an agreement on Friday, and this would still allow us to conclude the deal prior to the expiry of the deadline originally set by GM."

But Maud Olofsson cast doubt about the possibility of a deal being struck.

"I think it will be very difficult, but we also have to try every possibility to save Saab," she said.

Worker frustration

Spyker has submitted a new 11-point proposal to GM, addressing the issues that ended talks.

It is thought that the new offer does not include a loan from the European Investment Bank, which would allow the deal to go through quickly enough to meet the end of December deadline.

Spyker is partly owned by the Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov. He joined as chairman in April 2008 and is also the main shareholder in the Lithuanian bank Snoras and Russia's Conversbank.

Sweden's unions have urged GM to consider the new offer.

IF Metall chairman Stefan Loefven said: "I understand the frustration felt by everyone who is dependent on Saab, to be thrown between hope and despair is terrible. GM must now respond with a serious examination of the new bid."

Saab employs 3,400 people in Sweden and GM has estimated that 8,000 people would suffer indirectly from its planned closure.

Last year, Saab lost 3bn kronor (£255m; $412m). It has not made a profit since 2001 and made up 1.1% of GM's global sales last year.

GM pledged to become a leaner company when it emerged from bankruptcy protection in July this year. It had been hit by a sharp slump in sales - partly because of the financial crisis, but also because of stiff competition from Japanese rivals.

The company is now 62% owned by the US government.

GM is planning to focus on its four core brands - Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC - as well as its European business Opel.



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