Tying up the night’s news – Big Ed talks, or does he?

The headline, apparently, says it all….

Spyker sole remaining bidder for Saab: Whitacre

….and once again it’s our friends at Reuters who are making the news and everybody else is following them.

I don’t want to be a stone in anyone’s shoe here, but I haven’t seen a single quote attributed to Whitacre in any of the dozen or so stories I’ve looked at this morning that says it’s Spyker or die.

As a matter of fact, that story with the big Saab headline is mostly about the deal for GM to sell control of it’s China joint venture with Shanghai Automotive. The only quote related to Saab is this:

“I think it is possible,” Whitacre told reporters in a roundtable discussion at the automaker’s board room in its Detroit headquarters when asked if he thought the deal could be completed on Saab by GM’s month-end deadline.

And after that, there’s this:

Whitacre repeated that barring a deal, GM would close Saab. GM had set an end-of-December deadline to find a buyer for the unit after a deal to sell the brand to sports car maker Koenigsegg collapsed in November.

The Associated Press seems to have a more balanced piece, with more actual quotes from Whitacre:

GM identifies Spyker as possible Saab savior

……Chairman and interim CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. told reporters he has “a sense it’s possible” that the Saab sale to Spyker could still go through.

“Saab is just about done,” Whitacre said in a meeting with reporters. “If we don’t find a buyer by the end of the month, we’re going to close it.”

I have no doubt that Whiacre left the impression with reporters that it’s Spyker or die, but why haven’t any of them reproduced a quote from Whitacre saying exactly that?

What I think Whitacre is doing here is playing chess with the Swedish government. He’s saying that Spyker is the group they’ve identified and chosen to deal with and they had better deal with them quickly or else it’s “game over”.

So Joran Hagglund’s backed into a corner and the stakes are high. If the Swedish government and the National Debt Office are comfortable enough with Spyker to offer them loan guarantees, then all well and good.

If they’re not comfortable with those loan guarantees, then Joran Hagglund has a few awkward moments in his near future.

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Why am I being pretty pedantic about this?

Because there is another party seeking to get involved in this process, who I believe are probably being stonewalled. I wrote several days ago about a Swedish consortium looking to get involved. They appear to be credible people, they’re serious about Saab and they do exist.

What remains to be seen is whether or not they’ve left their run too late, whether Deutsche Bank will allow them a foot in the door, or whether or not there’s a nudge waiting to give them a hand to prise the door open.

These people will not come out publicly until they have their foot in the door, so we wait (but not for long). The rolloercoaster continues, whether you know you’re on it or not.

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For his part, Joran Hagglund is calling himself “a realistic optimist”. From Swedish Radio:

At the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Energy, the top civil servant Jöran Hägglund told the news agency TT that they are currently looking carefully at the financial situation of Spyker Cars to see if the state is able to give the necessary guarantees for a loan from the state.

“The work has started, but you could say it is far from finished. We are aware of the time table, so we are working as actively as we can,” Hägglund said.

Asked how he sees the chances of this deal to actually happen, Hägglund said he is a “realistic optimist”. “The time table is very tight, but we will be doing the tests we need to make because we have no reason to risk the taxpayers money. But the mere fact that there is an interested party and that there are negotiations going on is a reason to be a realistic optimist,” Hägglund says.

No sleep for you, Mr Hagglund. You can sleep next year.

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Saab spokesman Mats Fägerhag seems pleased with the possibility that Spyker are ‘the one’.

The comments from Saab were scarce on Tuesday evening, but TT spoke to Mats Fägerhag, head of technical development at Saab, who was not aware that Spyker Cars is the only bidder left in the negotiations. But if that is the case, he said he thought it was good news. “Spyker cars has shown a good understanding for Saabs Business plan and the value of Saab’s brand name,” Fägerhag told TT.

Spyker Cars is – just like the former Saab-bidder Koenigsegg, a very small luxury car maker. It makes 50 exclusive sports cars per year and has 135 employees. The main owner of Spyker is the Russian millionnaire Vladimir Antonov.

But Mats Fägerhag at Saab says he is not worried that Spyker will just be a repeat of the Koenigsegg story, which fell through last month. “Spyker cars has a lot of knowledge from the trade and I feel that they have both more experience and more stability than Koenigsegg Group,” Fägerhag told TT.

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In case you’re wondering, I’m not against Spyker being the group that buys Saab. They appear quite dynamic and hopefully they’ve got the resources behind them to actually get this done.

What I’m concerned about, though, is the gamesmanship from GM and DB, and the timetable for getting things done.

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