China's BAIC Buys Some Saab Assets

Will buy intellectual property rights

China's Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. (BAIC) said on Dec. 14 it has agreed to buy the intellectual property rights for some assets of General Motors' Swedish unit Saab.

The deal comes after BAIC, China's fifth largest automaker, and Swedish high-performance carmaker Koenigsegg gave up their joint bid for Saab last month, citing costly delays in the transaction.

State-owned BAIC will acquire the technology for Saab's 9-3 and 9-5 car models, turbine engines and gearboxes. Saab will also help BAIC develop its own-brand cars using the Swedish carmaker's technology.

The Chinese company said the deal was an "important milestone for BAIC and Saab's strategic cooperation and paved a good foundation for the two sides to further explore and expand win-win cooperation."

Hou Yankun, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Nomura International, said: "I think it's a clever move -- Chinese companies have had a hard time operating the brands they acquired. "What the Chinese auto sector is in need of is technology. When you have the technology you can launch improved models, which is the key, and build your own brand step by step."

The BAIC-Koenigsegg bid for Saab fell through as Koenigsegg needed a $600 million loan from the European Investment Bank and wanted the Swedish government to act as a guarantor, but the request was not acted upon.

BAIC, founded in 1958, already has joint ventures with Daimler and South Korea's Hyundai. An attempt to buy Opel collapsed in July after BAIC failed to reach an agreement with GM due to intellectual property rights concerns.

GM said previously it has received interest from buyers and would decide the fate of its Swedish unit, which employs 3,400 people, by the end of December. It has warned it may end the Saab brand if it fails to find a suitable buyer.

Dutch sports car maker Spyker said early this month that it was in talks with GM on the possibility of buying Saab from the U.S. company.

In the first six months of this year, BAIC reported a net profit of $370 million, up 78% from the same period last year, previous state media reports said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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