Dutch carmaker Spyker said Monday that it has filed a three-billion-dollar claim in a U.S. court against General Motors (IW 500/4), whose actions it said led directly to Swedish Saab's bankruptcy last year.
"The lawsuit seeks redress for the unlawful actions GM took to avoid competition with Saab Automobile (IW 1000/840) in the Chinese market," Saab's owner Spyker said in a statement issued in Zeewolde in the Netherlands.
The Swedish carmaker filed for bankruptcy in December after attempts to raise funds in China were thwarted by GM, which had previously owned Saab and refused a transfer of patents needed for the Chinese deal to go through.
"GM's actions had the direct and intended objective of driving Saab Automobile into bankruptcy, a result of GM's tortiously interfering with a transaction... to restructure and remain a solvent growing concern," Spyker said in the statement.
Detroit-based GM said in an email to AFP its lawyers "would review the lawsuit and respond in due course."
Spyker said it would pay for Saab's legal costs in the case filed in Michigan's Eastern District Court, in return for a "very substantial share of Saab Automobile's award when the proceedings are successful."
Youngman's Blocked Buy
Chinese carmaker Youngman had long been interested in buying Saab and tried to snap it up before it declared bankruptcy -- but its efforts were stymied by Saab's former owner GM, which balked at transferring the necessary technology licenses.
"GM took all the steps to prevent us to make a deal with Youngman," Spyker's chief executive Victor Muller said during a telephone conference call, adding "it was evident that General Motors has deliberately pushed Saab over the cliff."
Separately GM said on Sunday that its joint ventures in China sold a record 199,503 vehicles in July, a 15.1% increase from last year's previous high for a single month.
Muller added the $3 billion claimed in compensation represented the value Saab would have had, had the deal with Youngman go through.
He said that if the lawsuit was successful, "90% of its proceeds would go to Spyker."
The Dutch company estimated legal costs at "between one to two million euros."
"Any money that goes into Saab will be considered Saab's assets and might be distributed to the company's creditors," Muller added.
Bankruptcy administrators said in April that Saab had assets to cover just over a third of its debt of 13 billion kronor.
Saab received a new lease on life last month when Asian investors aiming to make electric cars for the Chinese market bought the Swedish company's assets out of bankruptcy.
National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), a new company created by two firms in Hong Kong and Japan just a few months ago and registered in Sweden with the express purpose of buying Saab, said it would buy the automaker for an undisclosed sum.
Youngman reportedly placed a preliminary bid in late January or early February of about $280 million.
GM sold Saab in early 2010 to Spyker for $400 million.
Analysts however reacted with skepticism over Spyker's chances of success, saying it would have to prove that GM's alleged machinations were the only reason Saab went into bankruptcy.
"Spyker's lawsuit against GM is an uphill battle at best," said Anthony Sabino, professor at the New York-based Saint John's University's Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
"Frankly, GM can easily defend itself by just saying 'look at the economy, look at the recession, look at Saab's sales figures.' All GM has to do is demonstrate one other good reason for Saab seeking bankruptcy protection," he said in a mail to AFP.
"It's ridiculous," added Frank Schwope, an analyst at German bank NORD/LB.
"The price of three billion dollars is ridiculous, when you know they (Spyker) paid 400 million dollars" to buy Saab from GM, Schwope told AFP. "I really think it's Spyker's last attempt to make money."
- Jan Hennop, AFP
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012