Saab deal hopes fade, GM presses on with wind down

Saab deal hopes fade, GM presses on with wind down

12:57pm EST
 * Billionaire John de Mol says not involved in Saab talks
 * GM pressing ahead with Saab wind-down plans-source
 * Spyker shares down 1.4 percent in thin trading
 By Kevin Krolicki and Gilbert Kreijger
 DETROIT/AMSTERDAM, Dec 24 (Reuters) - General Motors Co
[GM.UL] is pressing ahead with plans to shut down Saab as
chances of a deal to sell the Swedish brand to Dutch sports car
builder Spyker Cars <SPYKR.AS> remain remote, a person familiar
with the planning said on Thursday.
 Spyker CEO Victor Muller told Reuters on Thursday that his
company was still in talks with the U.S. automaker about an
acquisition of Saab.
 "We are still in discussions," Muller told Reuters in a
text message.
 Separately, Dutch billionaire John de Mol said through his
investment company Talpa that he was not involved in backing a
possible purchase of Saab.
 "Apparently there are parties that like to name someone
such as De Mol to -- unjustly -- strengthen their position in
the takeover battle," Talpa said in a statement.
 The question of how Spyker would fund an acquisition of
Saab is seen as the major hurdle to reach a deal before the
month-end deadline set by GM chairman and new Chief Executive
Ed Whitacre for a decision on the fate of the 60-year-old car
brand.
 A tentative deal to sell Saab to Swedish supercar maker
Koenigsegg collapsed in late November in part because of
problems in financing.
 De Mol is the second Dutch billionaire this week who denied
an involvement in financing a Saab deal.
 Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf cited Dutch billionaire Marcel
Boekhoorn as a backer earlier this week, but he denied his
involvement.
 Given the situation, GM has not changed the plans it
announced Friday to begin winding down Saab's operations in
January and it has started discussions with other parties as
part of that process, the person said.
 Earlier, GM struck a deal to sell the tooling and
technology for older Saab models to China's fifth-largest
automaker BAIC for $200 million.
 GM said last week that it could consider similar sales of
Saab assets, absent a last-minute deal to sell the brand and
its Trollhattan, Sweden production hub in its entirety.
 Saab, which GM has controlled since 1989, posted a loss of
$340 million in 2008, and is projected to post a similar loss
this year.
 GM's attempts to integrate the quirky brand into its global
line-up limited Saab's appeal to enthusiasts who liked its
early hatchback styling and turbo-charged engines.
 Saab sold just over 93,000 units in 2008, accounting for 1
percent of GM's global sales volume.
 The unit of GM employs about 3,400 in Sweden. The Swedish
government has announced public funding to help offset the
economic loss from its closure.
 Spyker in 2008 sold 43 luxury cars at prices of about
$300,000 and higher and posted a loss of about $35 million.
 Shares in Spyker closed down 1.35 percent on Thursday in
Amsterdam.
 (Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit and Aaron
Gray-Block in Amsterdam; Editing by Derek Caney)

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