GM nearing deal to sell Saab unit

General Motors is nearing a deal to sell its Saab unit, a person briefed on the negotiations, which have yet to be made final, said Thursday.

The news came as Swedish broadcaster SVT reported that Swedish luxury sports carmaker Koenigsegg Automotive AB and Norwegian investors are planning to buy Saab.

The person would not identify the final bidders for Saab but said news could come "shortly," perhaps as early as Friday.

"The process is well along," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private.

Citing unnamed sources, SVT said Koenigsegg and the unidentified investors have signed a declaration of intent to buy Saab.

Calls to Koenigsegg's headquarters in Angelholm, southern Sweden, were not answered Thursday. Saab officials didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

Gunilla Gustavs, a spokeswoman at Saab Automobile in Sweden, declined to comment on the speculation, saying Saab will make an official statement when the sales process has been finalized.

"I have no information on the timeline of that," she said, but added that "yes, we believe we're in the final stages."

Saab went into creditor protection Feb. 20 in an effort by GM to spin off or sell the unit. Saab confirmed last month that three bidders remained in the sales process and that they expected to complete the sale by the end of June.

The three bidders reportedly in the lead to buy Saab were Koenigsegg; The Renco Group, a private equity firm; and Merbanco, a Wyoming-based group of investors.

Earlier Thursday, Sweden's government said it had assigned the Swedish National Debt Office to initiate talks with Saab for loan guarantees with the European Investment Bank.

In a statement, Joran Hagglund, a senior official at Sweden's Ministry of Enterprise, said: "We've said all along that when there is a new owner for Saab, the debt office will be assigned to negotiate loan guarantees. Through today's decision we are well prepared for that."

The government did not provide further details on Saab's sales process and would not comment on the speculation arising later Thursday, but some market watchers said the move could indicate that a sell-off is near.

Detroit-based GM filed for bankruptcy protection June 1 and has said it plans to shed its Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac and Saab brands to focus on four core brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Last week, GM said it found a buyer for Hummer in China's Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, and it announced that Penske Automotive Group would buy the Saturn brand.

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