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Swedish union says Spyker plan for GM's Saab copies Koenigsegg

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Swedish union says Spyker plan for GM's Saab copies Koenigsegg

December 22, 2009 - 7:01 am ET

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- Sweden's IF Metall union held meetings with Saab bidder Spyker Cars today and said Spyker's business plan was a copy of an old plan by Koenigsegg, the Swedish luxury carmaker which dropped its bid for Saab last month.

Spyker has conducted stress tests on that plan, Stefan Lofven, chairman of the union, told Reuters after meeting with Spyker CEO Victor Muller.

"Spyker is anxious for this to become a reality," Lofven said. "From what we can see, this seems serious. They have put in a lot of time and money into this."

Spyker is pressing ahead with efforts to cut a deal for Saab with General Motors Co. after lodging a new fast-track offer to buy Saab from GM on Sunday.

Speculation of possible backing from a Dutch billionaire fanned the Saab's hopes of an eleventh-hour reprieve.

Possible wealthy backer

Spyker shares rose sharply on Tuesday after local media reported that its bid had won support from financier Marcel Boekhoorn.

Dutch paper De Telegraaf quoted unnamed sources as saying Boekhoorn, who bought a 5.7 percent stake in Spyker in 2007, was involved. But the financier told the daily: "It's all not true. It's been made up."

Speaking to ANP-Reuters from Stockholm, Spyker's Muller said he was still in talks about buying Saab and was still hopeful but declined to comment on the Boekhoorn report.

It was not immediately clear if Boekhoorn was still a shareholder in Spyker, which made 43 luxury cars last year against Saab's sales of 93,295.

Boekhoorn's wealth is estimated at 1.3 billion euros by Dutch magazine Quote. He sprang to prominence when he bought a stake in Dutch telecoms group Telfort in 2003 and made more than 300 million euros two years later when the firm was sold to Dutch telecoms company, KPN.

Spyker said on Sunday it had submitted a new offer to GM, including an 11-point proposal addressing issues that arose during the due diligence process for its old bid.

Russian backers step aside

Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing unidentified sources, said on Monday the ownership structure backing the Spyker bid had been altered to placate worries at GM, and that Russian parties were no longer involved.

Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov holds a stake of almost 30 percent in Spyker, and Russia is keen to obtain Western technology to re-energize its car industry.

Russian state-controlled Sberbank and Canada's Magna International Inc. tried to buy a stake in GM's Opel unit until GM decided to keep it last month.

The market remained skeptical that Russia-backed Spyker would clinch a deal.

"The new offer came as a surprise, and now there is the (report) of ... Boekhoorn who slipped in through the back door. That gives the shares a boost," said Keijser Capital trader Michael Jabroer.

"(But) I think this is going to be capital-destructive .... Spyker may have to raise capital from the market and whether it will be fully used for Saab remains to be seen. Perhaps it will be another toy for (Spyker CEO Victor) Muller."

On Tuesday, Spyker shares closed up 6.8 percent at 2.19 euros, short of Monday's four-month high of 2.30 euros and with trading volumes of just 98,373 shares encouraging price volatility.

The closure of 60-year-old Saab would eliminate 3,400 jobs in Sweden and drop 218 U.S. dealerships. GM has said it will close Saab by Dec. 31 unless it has a deal to sell the brand. On Sunday, GM said it would evaluate several new expressions of interest for Saab.

Muller said on Sunday: "Our efforts are based on our passion for saving an iconic brand that we would be honored to shepherd, and the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of loyal Saab employees, suppliers and dealers around the world."

A spokeswoman for Boekhoorn's company Boekhoorn M&A and Saab both declined comment. A spokesman for GM Netherlands declined comment, while GM Europe was not immediately available to comment.

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Very interesting. I mean, if GM gets a slug of cash out of this, what do they care if Saab then becomes a burden on the Swedish taxpayer?

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