The Associated Press June 13, 2012, 05:29AM ET

Administrators for Sweden's Saab says buyer found

Bankrupt Swedish car maker Saab on Wednesday seemed to have been rescued from insolvency as the administrators for the almost seven-decade old brand said they had found it a buyer.

The new owner, who was not named, will be presented at a news conference later Wednesday, the administrators said in a brief statement. It was not immediately clear whether the estate will be divested as a whole, including the subsidiaries Saab Tools and Saab Powertrain, or whether it will be sold in parts.

Saab, which has more than 3,000 workers, filed for bankruptcy in December last year after its previous owner, the Dutch luxury car group Spyker -- later named Swedish Automobile -- failed to get backing for the brand.

Early last year, it became clear that Saab had failed to pay its suppliers. Production was stopped in March 2011, then restarted, and later halted again as the liquidity crisis deepened. Saab's car manufacturing plant in the small city of Trollhattan in western Sweden has been idle since then.

In recent months, a handful of suitors have made bids for Saab, but as discussions neared closure earlier this month, rumors swirled that a Swedish electric car consortium, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, would become the potential new owner. Neither the trustees nor spokespeople representing NEVS have confirmed the speculation.

In April, a summary of Saab's balance sheet showed the company has debts of 13 billion kronor ($1.9 billion) and assets of around 3.6 billion kronor ($532 million).

The debts included claims of 2.2 billion kronor from the Swedish state, 606 million kronor from former owner General Motors Corp. and 513 million kronor from former employees.

Saab also owes GM 2.2 billion kronor it paid for preferential shares but the American automotive company would only be entitled to that if the bankruptcy produced a surplus, the trustees said.

Trustees have said that mainly preferential creditors, or those who hold securities for their claims, will receive money.

Originally an aircraft maker, Saab entered into the auto market after World War II with the first production of the two-stroke-engine Saab 92. It soon became a household name in Sweden and in the 1970s it released its first turbocharged model -- the landmark Saab 99.

To auto enthusiasts, Saab was known for its quirks, such as placing the ignition lock between the front seats and becoming the first car to have heated seating in 1971.

GM bought a 50 percent stake and management control of Saab in 1989, and gained full ownership in 2000. The aircraft and defense company with the same name remained an independent entity, building fighter jets and weapons systems.

Saab Automobile's sales peaked at 133,000 cars in 2006. After that, sales dwindled to 93,000 cars in 2008 and just 27,000 in 2009, as GM -- itself in bankruptcy protection following the financial crisis -- prepared to wind down the Swedish brand.


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