Sunday 17 November 2019

F1’s Ecclestone joins Genii in bid for Saab

Adam Ewing and Ola Kinnander

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone and partner Genii Capital emerged as a rival to Dutch super-car maker Spyker Cars in making last-ditch efforts to buy General Motors’ Saab unit.

Genii Capital, the Luxembourg-based private-equity firm that agreed to acquire a majority stake in Renault SA’s F1 team last month, is offering cash for Saab, said Lars Carlstroem, the Swedish investor who is working with Genii. Spyker put in a revised offer before a 5pm deadline in New York yesterday, Chief Executive Officer Victor Muller said.

Forbes’ 2009 list estimates Ecclestone and his family’s net worth at $3.7bn. After two attempts to sell the 72-year-old Saab brand failed in the past two months, GM CEO Ed Whitacre said January 6 that the Detroit carmaker was proceeding with a decision to close Saab and that no qualified buyer had emerged.

“It’s a good brand that has probably been neglected by the current owners,” Ecclestone, 79, said in a phone interview. “We don’t own it yet, so let’s see what happens.”

Ecclestone declined to disclose any financing details.

Genii Capital “has decided that given an adequate and short timeframe for finalizing its offer, it will aggressively work towards a successful closing of the transaction with all the relevant stakeholders of the company,” the private-equity firm said in a statement. Genii said it will bid for a majority stake in Saab together with Ecclestone.

No qualified buyer

“It’s real easy -- show up with the money and you can have it,” Whitacre told a roundtable of reporters January 6, when asked whether GM had made a good-faith effort to sell Saab. GM doesn’t foresee a sale, he said.

Also planning a bid is a third group of investors, headed by former MAN SE CEO Hakan Samuelsson and former Swedish minister Jan Nygren, Dagens Industri reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information.

Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab is scheduled to hold a board meeting today where it will examine if it can restart production Jan. 11 after a four-week break, board member Haakan Danielsson said. Board members may also discuss new bids for Saab, he said.

Saab’s board could be dissolved as early as today as the wind-down process begins, a person familiar with the matter said. Even so, GM could still decide to accept a bid, he said.

‘Wait and see’

Negotiations to sell Saab to Spyker collapsed December 18 and Spyker submitted a second offer December 20, which it further revised yesterday.

“Now there’s nothing more we can do, we just have to wait and see,” Muller said in an interview. “Whoever is the shepherd of Saab, the main thing is that it survives.”

Genii plans to use former bidder Koenigsegg Group AB’s Saab business plan and make the automaker profitable by 2012 with production of 105,000 vehicles a year, Carlstroem said.

“It is a true opportunity and we’re surprised that more investors haven’t identified this opportunity,” he said. Genii Capital “loves brands and Saab is a strong brand on the same level as Porsche and BMW.”

Saab is among four brands, along with Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer, being unloaded as GM focuses on Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac in the US after its July 10 bankruptcy exit.

Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg, which had backing from Beijing Automotive Industry, walked away from a deal to buy Saab in November. Beijing Auto paid $200m to buy some car technologies from Saab to use in its own vehicles.


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