Saab Sale Slipping Away?

John A Cameron-Charles
by John A Cameron-Charles

The owners of Koenigsegg Group are devolving into internecine warfare, even (especially?) as they attempt to buy Saab Automobile from General Motors. Swedish business daily Dagens Industri reports that the chaotic disputes between the principal shareholders threatens to torpedo the entire buying process. Norwegian businessman Bård Eker, who owns nearly 25 percent of the Koenigsegg Group, says if the disputes aren’t sorted out by Wednesday, September 30, he’s out. For good. Färdig. And who do we blame for this last minute brinksmanship? None other than deal-defenestrated California’s sub-prime tycoon, Mark Bishop.


Bishop, currently involved in Canadian group Omniarc, is reportedly trying to sell large quantities of Koenigsegg shares that he no longer owns. Bishop’s using a previously convicted Norwegian businessman as a front man. Bishop denies that he’s selling the shares in question—despite the fact that Dagens Industri has documentation proving that Bishop has commissioned Norwegian ex-con Thomas Oye to sell Koenigsegg shares.

What’s more, Thomas Oye confirms the deal. “Mark Bishop has asked me to find a buyer for his shares, “said Thomas Oye. Carnegie boss Anders Onarheim has also heard someone is trying to dump Koenigsegg shares—while Carnegie are trying to get the company $ 100 million in fresh money. “It’s not easy to sell shares if someone else tries to sell at a much lower price at the same time.”

For his part, Bard Eker calls Bishop’s machinations “an open wound.” In any case, it’s a race against the clock for Saab, the owner GM, the prospective buyer Koenigsegg, the unions and the Government—all of whom must act in concert to save the jobs of 3,500 employees and the future of the venerable automaker.


Money


Koenigsegg Group claimed to have gathered together 700 million SEK (MUSD 100) for a deal that will cost between $1.5 to $1.8 billion. In theory, the difference will come from an EIB loan (offer expires October 31st) and Beijing Automotive. But many have wondered why the people fronting the purchase are not those assuming the majority of the risk. And now it becomes clear that Norwegian investment bankers Carnegie have decided to stop a share-issue planned to bring in close to 700 million SEK. Questions are being raised; is this the $100 million that the Koenigsegg group were to going to invest “out of their own pocket?”


GM’s benevolence


General Motors has invested nearly $10 billion to jettison the “born from jets” brand. GM will continue to run Saab if the deal drags on beyond the end of next month. Meanwhile, Koenigsegg Group have to meet with certain key issues in the purchase agreement for it to remain valid.


Beijing Automotive


After failing to put up the funds to complete the purchase, Koenigsegg Group opened to other investors. Beijing Automotive jumped in. Despite promising to invest 3 billion SEK ($420 million), their money is supposed to have zero influence on running the future company. The Chinese automaker would have us believe that that Beijing does not get any power—a patently absurd assertion considering that they would put in the lion’s share of the money needed to keep Saab alive.


Mark Bishop


There is considerable uncertainty about what sort of ownership the American Mark Bishop has in the Koenigsegg Group. Bishop was outed/left the deal but his shareholding is apparently uncertain when the purchase is still not implemented. The dispute between Mark Bishop and the rest of the Koenigsegg Group threatens the whole affair.


Dropouts


Mark Bishop was the driving force of the Koenigsegg Group’s original bid for Saab. After Bishop dropped out, Augie K Fabel—the group’s other (financially) strong man—does not want to be the front man for the Koenigsegg Group. But what is he afraid of? Why is it that they want to avoid being scrutinized? Koenigsegg Group are now searching for a person to head the board and take Fabela’s role.

So a group with no cash and no leader is going to take over an automaker, keep the Chinese majority shareholder from interfering and make it profitable? Good luck with that.

John A Cameron-Charles
John A Cameron-Charles

More by John A Cameron-Charles

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Dolorean23 Dolorean23 on Sep 28, 2009

    Kristjan Ambroz / european: Your theory of a GM terrified to lose anymore of its octupus arms is a valid one, especially on the heels of losing their crown jewel Opel. Now if they lose Saab, what does GM have left in Europe to peddle, besides Cadillacs in small numbers. John, SWEET picture!! Love the Swedish flying fish!

  • Bruce from DC Bruce from DC on Sep 28, 2009

    @Mkirk Your comment about Saabs, Priuses and academics gave me a huge brainstorm -- GM should have made Saab the anti-Hummer. Rather than try and elbow into the "sports sedan" category against BMW or the "near luxury" category against the Japanese and Volvo, GM should have made Saab the "thinking man's car," with environmental consciousness at the forefront -- including hybrids.

Next