DETROIT -- General Motors Co. will continue to wind down Saab despite a fresh offer from Spyker Cars NV, GM CEO Edward Whitacre said.
GM does not have a deal and “has not changed direction” on shutting down its Swedish unit, Whitacre said at a press conference on Monday in Detroit.
But Whitacre did confirm that GM has been in advanced talks with Spyker, and he left the door open for continued negotiations with Spyker, the Dutch maker of luxury sports cars, adding, “If and when that changes, we'll let you know.”
Hopes for a deal announcement were raised when GM scheduled a news conference for Monday. That later turned out to be mainly about naming interim CEO Whitacre as permanent CEO.
A Swedish TV station reported Monday that Spyker was preparing to announce its purchase of Saab and that the Swedish government had agreed to guarantee loans for the deal from the European Investment Bank.
Sverige Television said the deal involved a European Investment Bank loan of 400 million euros ($556 million at current exchange rates).
The Swedish government said Monday that no such deal has been reached.
Reports of the looming deal helped Spyker's stock. Shares in the niche producer, whose original bid to buy Saab was backed by a Russian banker and an Abu Dhabi developer, soared by 80 percent to approach a market value of 100 million euros ($140 million).
Saab's expected $400 million net loss for 2009 alone eclipses that. Nevertheless, behind the sharp gains were investor hopes that revived talks between Spyker and GM had made progress over the weekend.
A Spyker/Saab deal was first mooted on December 18 when GM said it would start winding down the automaker.
Spyker with about 110 employees and Saab with 3,400 make an unlikely pairing. One thing they do have in common is that neither made a profit in the past decade.
But the Dutch company still holds out hope for a deal.
"Spyker confirms that talks are ongoing, the outcome of which is still uncertain. As Saab is currently in liquidation talks must end soon," Spyker said in a statement.
A Swedish television program had earlier reported, without citing sources, that Sweden has agreed to guarantee loans for the deal from the European Investment Bank.
Clinching control of Saab would be the easiest part of the deal, as questions still remain over whether it would work.
"I don't really know what Spyker brings to Saab in terms of expertise, in terms of ability to turn the business around. Equally, on the Saab front, I don't really know how a business that's selling as few units as it sells can ultimately be profitable," said Nomura analyst Michael Tyndall.
"I think it's incredibly difficult to be successful in the segment they're trying to be successful in without a big budget. We're talking about a quasi-premium brand building cars in one the more expensive locations in terms of labor costs. There are many many challenges ahead."
Muller revived Spyker
Spyker's CEO Victor Muller is a former clothing brand executive who has so far managed to squeeze out of tight spots and keep Spyker, a business that once built a coach for the Dutch royal family, as a going concern.
While Saab has built a reputation as a quintessentially Swedish car with its 9-3 and 9-5 models -- solid, not too flashy -- Spyker is all about flash, from its hand-crafted leather interiors to head-turning brushed-metal styling, backed by the roar of a tuned Audi V8 engine that can push its C8 Aileron and C8 Spyder models to 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph).
Lars Carlstrom, a spokesman for rival bidder Genii Capital, was skeptical about any Saab/Spyker deal reaching fruition.
Carlstrom said Spyker was no longer relying on financing from Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov, who holds 29.9 percent of Spyker.
"Antonov will be taken out of the deal through a requirement from the U.S. government," he said.
Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Company owns a further 23 percent of Spyker.
Two wind-down supervisors took control of Saab earlier this month, but GM said it was continuing to evaluate offers during the wind-down process after Spyker and other parties submitted updated bids for the loss-making brand.
Reuters contributed to this report