The Financial Times put a name to the mysterious western US bidder today and that name is Merbanco. They haven’t been available for direct comment yet and like all other outlets covering the Saab story, I’m trying.
Until then, I have tapped some sources. Let’s call him *Djup Strupe’s american brother, Henry.
What I’ve been able to find out about Merbanco is as follows:
You probably won’t have heard the individual names behind Merbanco before, but you’ll be familiar with some of the brand names they’ve worked with.
I can’t mention them here but they’re names involved in global business, with manufacturing and technology. This is some really wide ranging experience dating back over 30 years with involvement in automotive, agricultural, finance and legal – and it’s all very wide-ranging in geographical terms.
UPDATE: Can confirm that Merbanco were one of the original parties to place a bid on Saab. They’re not any sort of late entrant but have toured the premises and have been watching developments since their initial bid was declined by Deutsche Bank.
UPDATE II: Can confirm that FT.com has it right. Merbanco is the returning player involved in the process.
As has been mentioned here at SU before, Saab are going to be missing some important components once they separate from GM.
Saab will be a company that sells products globally, but many of the global business operations people that worked for Saab before have moved on and these operations have been provided by GM.
Think in terms of capital markets, currencies, long range business planning etc. Expertise in all this stuff is a necessity for a global manufacturing business. To put it in simple terms, what Saab might be missing in the back office is something that could be Merbanco’s forte.
If they’re coming in with the idea of providing the missing pieces (funding, support, business expertise) and allowing the Swedes do what they do best (design and build cars), then this could be a very nice match indeed.
It’s these areas of expertise that were of concern in my piece about Koenigsegg last week. Koenigsegg is a marketers dream but questions about their finance and expertise in big business still linger. I could definitely live with a Koenigsegg takeover, but this Merbanco offering is tantalising because it could allow Saab to be Saab.
That’s a pretty important thing.
I’m not getting carried away just yet with all this. A merchant bank from a tax haven state could be a recipe for strip and flip as well. But if they’ve managed to get access to the table again at this late stage (and not to forget Henry Strupe’s description, above) then I’d say they’ve convinced the right people that they’ve got the right motives.
UPDATE III: Can confirm from un-named sources that Merbanco are definitely seen as a good fit for the organsiation. They have a long-term outlook and an emphasis on management support.
* Djup Strupe is a fictional name used to protect sensitive sources. The name means Deep Throat in Swedish. Therefore his cousin Henry is also fictional but real at the same time.