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Friday, June 15, 2012

Bankrupt Saab sold to Japanese-Hong Kong venture


STOCKHOLM — Bankrupt Swedish automaker Saab has been sold to National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, a new company registered in Sweden founded by two firms in Japan and Hong Kong, the two sides said Wednesday.

"NEVS and the receivers of the Saab Automobile bankruptcy estate today signed a purchase agreement which covers the main assets of Saab Automobile AB, Saab Automobile Powertrain AB and Saab Automobile Tools AB," NEVS and Saab bankruptcy administrators said, declining to specify the purchase price.

NEVS, 51 percent owned by Hong Kong-based alternative energy specialist National Modern Energy Holdings and 49 percent owned by Japanese investment firm Sun Investment LLC, was "established for the purpose of acquiring the assets of the Saab Automobile bankruptcy estate," they said in a statement.

The firm explained that it plans to create a new model based on the Saab 9-3, "which will be modified for electric drive using advanced EV technology from Japan."

The car should be rolled out at the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014 and is aimed primarily at the Chinese market, it said.

"NEVS aims to become a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles," it said, adding production will continue at Saab's factory in Trollhaettan, Sweden.

Saab filed for bankruptcy in December. It was already on the brink of bankruptcy when GM sold it in early 2010 to Dutch company Swedish Automobile — at the time called Spyker — for $400 million. Bankruptcy administrators said in April that Saab had assets to cover only a third of its debt of 13 billion kronor ($1.8 billion).

"The sale to NEVS is our most important action to realize the assets of the estate," Anne-Marie Pouteaux, one of the Saab administrators, said Wednesday. "We are very pleased today, having reached this agreement."

Swedish union IF Metall, to which many Saab workers belong, hailed the agreement and the new owners' innovative spirit.

"It's exciting to focus on electric vehicles, which are very timely in an international perspective," the union said. "We have too few electric cars on the road in Sweden and are far behind many countries. With this new focus, new export opportunities will likely open up."

Swedish Enterprise Minister Annie Loeoef also welcomed the deal, saying in a statement it was "positive news for the Swedish auto industry and for the region."

Saab began life in 1937 as an aircraft manufacturer, something that became evident in the aerodynamic, sporty shape of its first concept car designs. It built its first prototype cars in 1947 and the first production version rolled off the assembly line two years later. The iconic brand was forced to halt production in April 2011 amid mountains of unpaid bills.

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The Japan Times

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