STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Chinese auto firm Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile has made an improved 5 billion crown (452.4 million pounds) bid for bankrupt carmaker Saab, Swedish media reported on Friday.
Daily Svenska Dagbladet quoted Youngman’s representative in Sweden saying the Chinese firm had raised its bid for all of Saab’s assets from an offer of 3 billion crowns it made in February.
“Our revised bid includes all parts of Saab’s bankruptcy estate, including the spare parts unit,” the paper quoted Johan Nylen, Youngman’s representative saying.
“Youngman is pretty convinced it has put in the highest bid and, given that we have shown that we have access to the money, Youngman should be in a good position,” he said.
Nylen could not immediately be reached for comment.
Youngman has been trying to get control of Saab since the iconic Swedish brand got into trouble in 2010, but has hit a number of hurdles, including getting approval from former Saab owner GM (GM.N).
Buying Saab would give Youngman access to Saab’s technology - far ahead of its own - and the company will hope to emulate rival Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (0175.HK) which bought Volvo Cars in 2010 and has revived the brand.
Yougman’s statement came just hours after Sweden said it stood ready to take over Saab’s spare parts unit, which, along with Saab Automobile Tools, Saab put up as collateral for a loan guaranteed by the state.
The carmaker was declared insolvent at the end of 2011 with debts of around 13 billion Swedish crowns, around 2.2 billion of which is owed to the Swedish Debt Office.
Receivers have been trying to sell Saab’s assets, but it has proven tough to find a buyer willing to pay enough to get the Debt Office - which wants to recoup all the money owed to taxpayers - on board.
Nylen said Youngman’s new bid means the state “would be compensated in full for the debt it is owed, that is to say, 2.2 billion crowns”.
Earlier in the day, Debt Office head Bo Lundgren said a sale of Saab as a whole was still the best solution, but that the government might have to run Saab Automobile Parts as it might not be possible to sell the unit at the right price.
The Debt Office took shares in Saab Automobile Parts - a daughter company to Saab Automobile - and Saab Tools as collateral for guaranteeing a loan from the European Investment Bank to Saab Automobile.
Early this year, the Debt Office paid off the EIB saying the collateral was worth more than the loan.
Lundgren said the Debt Office now reckoned it could get taxpayers’ money back from the sale of shares in Saab Tools and from profits from Saab Parts over the coming seven or eight years.
Taking over Saab Parts would be an about-face for a centre-right government that has been busy selling off state assets, disposing of Absolut Vodka maker Vin & Sprit and reducing stakes in banking group Nordea (NDA.ST) and telecom operator TeliaSonera TLSN.ST.
Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by David Holmes, Bernard Orr