Saab is still attractive for some investors, its owner, Swedish Automobile, said on Monday after filing to make the carmaker bankrupt.
"There are parties out there that have expressed an interest to pursue a possible acquisition of Saab from bankruptcy," Swedish Automobile CEO Victor Muller told a news conference today. "Although this may seem like the end, it is not necessarily so."
He said it was now up to receivers appointed to oversee the bankruptcy process to judge such offers.
He said General Motors Co. had been a problem in finalizing a rescue plan, though its unhelpful attitude had only emerged from the middle of the year. He said a court-appointed lawyer who had overseen Saab's creditor protection process had undermined rescue efforts.
Dormant production lines
Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy today and is on the brink of shutting for good after former owner GM rejected a rescue plan.
The move sets the scene for the end of Saab's struggle to survive after months of hastily drawn up deals. The latest plan involving Chinese automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile was vetoed by GM, still a Saab supplier, over the weekend. Saab hasn't made a car in months.
"After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded," Saab's Dutch owner, Swedish Automobile, said in a statement.
"The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors."
It expected the court shortly to approve the filing and appoint receivers. Swedish Automobile "does not expect to realize any value from its shares," the company added.
"There's no doubt this is the blackest day in my career," Muller said at a press conference today.
Said Mats Faegerhag, Saab's product development chief: "It feels really tough. We've been fighting so hard for so long. Saab is part of Sweden's industrial history, and it would be a big blow not just to us if we go under."
There is still a possibility for Saab to be rescued in one piece if a "viable investor" steps in, Faegerhag said today in a phone interview. "But that would have to happen quick, in a few weeks, because our employees will be looking for other jobs."
Saab, which GM sold to Swedish Automobile in February 2010, won protection from creditors in September and has been seeking an investor since then. Guy Lofalk, Saab's court-appointed administrator, applied on Dec. 7 to end the reorganization, saying the carmaker was out of money and had no realistic hope of gaining financing soon.
Saab was in discussions with Youngman and a Chinese bank to secure about 600 million euros ($782 million) in loans, CEO Muller said on Dec. 7. GM said Dec. 17 that it couldn't support proposed alternatives for Saab because the options "are not meaningfully different" from previous suggestions GM had rejected on the grounds they would hurt the U.S. company.
Saab's work force totals about 3,600 employees, including 3,400 in Trollhaettan, Sweden. Saab's vehicle sales, which reached 133,000 cars in 2006, have plunged in the last few years. The company sold 31,696 cars in 2010, missing a target of 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles.
Swedish Automobile, which changed its name from Spyker Cars NV in June, had planned for Saab to sell 120,000 cars and become profitable by 2012. Zeewolde, Netherlands-based Spyker makes supercars such as the $235,000 C8 Aileron. Saab began as Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget in 1937, making airplanes, and started producing cars in 1947.
Saab Auto split from the aerospace operations, now known as Saab AB, in the 1990s, with GM gaining a 50 percent stake in 1990 and full control in 2000.
The U.S. carmaker, itself saved by a U.S.-steered bankruptcy in 2009, put Saab on the block that year as one of four divisions marked for sale or shutdown. Saab Auto suspended production in March, when it couldn't pay suppliers, and has only occasionally restarted assembly lines since then. It has delayed wages several times and has yet to give workers pay that was due at the end of November.
Youngman, Chinese car dealer Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Russian banker Vladimir Antonov, a former Spyker shareholder, have all been failed suitors for a stake in Saab as Muller tried to fund the unit's turnaround since its purchase.
Saab's collapse may also hurt competitor Volvo Car Corp., the Swedish automaker owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., as suppliers to both manufacturers will be hampered and may go out of business as well, production chief Faegerhag said.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.