Thursday Snippets – D-day edition

If you’re wondering why I haven’t been around much today, it’s because I’ve been as mad as a cut snake all morning.
I’m dealing with it, so on to other things…. most of which have been covered by people in comments anyway. I’m playing catchup.
So, a review of the potential bidders as we approach the day that final bids are due in.
Spyker are recognised in the press as the front-running bidder and are preparing a revised bid for submission to GM today.
There has been a lot written about their plans for Saab’s future, though I’m led to believe that the statement about the 9-1 not being made was mis-quoted.
Like everyone else, Spyker are going to have to overcome GM’s apparent need to have funding of an EIB level secured as part of the bid. Stories about changes in the backers for the group are unconfirmed, but Victor Muller was adamant two weeks or so ago that Spyker had addressed all of GM’s concerns about backing and funding.
Automotive News published an article yesterday stating that Spyker were the only bidder under consideration and I said that I agree, with around 99% level of surety. There are various reasons for that, chief amongst which is the fact that Merbanco seem to be seeking assurances that the Swedish government will not provide prior to a bidder being chosen.
Contrary to my headline (and my further comment), Merbanco CEO Christopher Johnston stated in comments himself that Merbanco will be submitting a final bid, however it will be difficult to move forward without commitments from the Swedish government. In a further email today, he said “we are meeting tomorrow (Thur, US time) to decide, based upon the current situation, whether to put forth a bid or not.”
The Swedish press are now reporting that there are two Swedish Groups interested in Saab, one of them proposing a management buyout. Reports claim they have the support of management. I agree that they probably would, and I don’t want to disrespect any of these groups, but I think any winning bidder who can run a viable business will have the support of management.
One of those two groups is likely to be the one I’ve nicknamed “Sason”. They were previously teamed up with Merbanco. I’m unclear now as to whether or not they will submit on their own, or given that Merbanco will apparently still submit, whether they will do so together.
I’ve heard minor whispers of a second group, but nothing substantiated enough to have reported here. So that one’s a mystery.
Joran Hagglund stated in that same report that it seems neither of these two groups have sufficient funding to proceed far.
AWMS Acquisitions
A representative from the Florida group that was interested in Saab got in touch today and stated that they still plan to submit an offer.
My sources indicate, however, that this offer is unlikely to be considered favourably.
One of GM’s top Communications guys, Tom Wilkinson, said that they’re negotiating with several parties and hope to be able to complete the process.
GM’s Chairman and CEO, Ed Whitacre, said that a sale looks unlikely as “nobody’s come with the money” yet.
As many of you have noted already, GM get to see the money when the final bids are submitted, not before.
If you haven’t read this article by Dutch Mandel in Autoweek, you should.
Especially you, Mr. Ed.

What makes for common sense to many isn’t always how business is run.
Take Saab. This rumination, agitation and gnashing of teeth that General Motors’ executives are putting themselves through with selling Saab to Spyker is anathema to me.
Why is it this difficult?
If GM sheds Saab and deals the iconic brand to a passionate group of car enthusiasts who vow to nurture and revive it, then everyone wins. GM is not seen as a company full of product idiots and half-wit business suits, but as people who care about cars. Saab enthusiasts see their beloved brand continue. Parts for all those Swedish sleds will continue to be made. The governments of both countries–each of which have large stakes in their collective car companies–can feel good that they did something to save jobs. Dealers sell cars. The world is a better place.

It really is that simple.
I also noted (General Motors PR guy) Tom Wilkinson’s comments here on site recently, though I also note that he hasn’t answered an email I sent him.
In short, whilst I appreciate his willingness to drop in here, I’m concerned about Mr Wilkinson’s response to an email to one of our commenters sent him yesterday. In his response, Mr Wilkinson stated that Saab only sell 50,000 cars a year. Given that he’s a PR official with GM, I’ve got serious concerns that his comments are a reflection of the value GM put on Saab.
If so, then I think they under-valued Saab by a considerable amount and it concerns me greatly that this could be an offical line of thinking.
My inbox is open, Mr Wilkinson.

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