No future for Saab in Turkey according to the officials
by, Tue 03 January 2012 at 14:03 (761 Views)
Ailing Swedish car maker Saab Automobile AB used exaggerated reports circulated by Swedish media that suggested a growing Turkish appetite for a possible acquisition to allegedly attract other interested buyers in international markets, observers argued on Thursday.
Various reports appearing in Swedish media, including state television channel SVT, on Tuesday claimed that officials from the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm have contacted the Swedish Ministry of Industry as well as ailing carmaker Saab Automobile AB about a possible acquisition. Sources said Saab was trying to create an “artificial agenda” in a move to also inject optimism into the troubled company and its 3,500 workers now facing the threat of losing their jobs. Under heavy debt strain, Saab initially flirted with Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov to invest but failed in this attempt following a veto from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Swedish firm later tried to coax Chinese Hawtai Motor Group for a takeover but this also failed in May. Their last chance, a take over by Chinese Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and China Youngman Automobile Group Co., Ltd., was blocked by Saab’s previous owner General Motors. Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy on Monday, giving up a desperate struggle to keep the lights on.
Saab’s CEO Victor Muller earlier arranged a meeting with Turkish diplomats in Stockholm where he briefed the embassy officials on the latest condition of his company. Turkey’s ambassador to Stockholm Zergün Korutürk confirms the meeting; however, she says “the Swedish media misinterpreted her meeting with Saab CEO to eventually create a “false agenda”. “It is interesting that the media created such an atmosphere when there is no reliable data regarding an agreement with a Turkish company as yet,” she said. Korutürk said the reports sounded like some parties were trying to “market the brand via exaggerated newsreports”. Automotive industry expert Memduh Taşlıcalı, who also writes for the Zaman daily, shares Korutürk’s opinion and adds this was necessary for the government to avoid incorrect allegations.
Taşlıcalı says the reports in the Swedish media which he claimed were “emotionally motivated” had some support from inside Turkey as well. “It is also important to note that some parties in Turkey have tried to convince the government that acquiring Saab would best serve plans for a national car brand and they promoted reports suggesting similar claims. But we all know Saab is not as popular and … such attempts to mislead the public opinion on the Saab issue has failed due to government’s strict stance since the beginning of this story,” he argues.
Government officials have earlier underlined the government had no interests in buying Saab. They added it was the Swedish side who requested Turkish private firms to buy the company. This was acknowledged by Mustafa Koç, the CEO of Turkish Koç Holding, which produces cars jointly with the Ford Motor Company and Italian Fiat in Turkey. Evaluating the issue for reporters in Kayseri, Koç acknowledged that the Swedish car maker asked his company to acquire the brand; however, they “kindly declined this offer.” “We already have a successful partnership with Ford and Fiat; shaking hands with a third brand would not be appropriate at this point. … Why would we buy a bankrupt car brand at the end of the day?” he asserted. Science, Technology and Industry Minister Nihat Ergün told reporters on Wednesday in İstanbul that acquiring Saab would not be a profitable move. Observers argued it would require some $1.5 billion investment for Saab to rise from the ashes.
‘Saab has been meeting Turkish officials since 2009’
Further reports on Thursday revealed Saab’s sale to a Turkish firm has actually been discussed behind closed doors for the past two years. TheSabah daily quoted economy minister Zafer Çağlayan as saying that the Swedish car maker first contacted the Turkish government in 2009 to seek a possible acquisition deal. “When they first came to us two years ago our government evaluated the company’s performance in detail to eventually decide that would not be in Turkey’s best interest to buy this brand,” Çağlayan said. Underlining that the government envisaged the first domestic passenger car brand as “a middle-class vehicle” segment, Çağlayan said Saab appealed to the luxury segment. “Apart from this we saw that they have not invested in technology for almost 15 years.”
The government introduced an Automotive Strategy Paper earlier this year for the production of Turkey’s first national car. Upon the release of the paper the government expects projects from the private industry.
Source Today's Zaman