DealZone

Volvo purchase: an exceptional Chinese deal?

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s acquisition of Volvo from Ford for US$1.8bn means a Chinese carmaker has finally succeeded in reaching agreement to buy a Western marque. Ford originally put the Swedish brand up for sale nearly three years ago, as GM looked for a buyer for its notoriously gas-hungry Hummer.

Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, advised by Credit Suisse, agreed to buy Hummer last June but that deal was later shelved. Similarly Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co pulled out of a possible purchase of GM’s Swedish asset Saab. That deal had been fronted by smaller Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg.

At the time, advisers murmured that these deals had been killed by the Chinese authorities baulking at allowing smaller vehicle makers in the unconsolidated Chinese market buying tired Western consumer brands. These would have needed significant investment to be restructured.

Geely, which is backed by a Goldman Sachs private equity fund, is in a different league. Its move, principally funded by US$1.6bn cash, looks credible and Volvo is in better shape and might need less effort to turnaround, fuelled by rampant Chinese demand, than other autos on the block. One estimate says China’s will post 12% annualised GDP growth this quarter.

That said, the Chinese state itself, although backing private company Geely’s deal, still seems more focused on easier asset deals. On the same day state oil company Sinopec has splashed out US$2.5bn on African assets, this time offshore from Angola. Ironically these were owned by Petrochina.

Saab story ends

It’s official. General Motors will wind down operations at its loss-making Swedish unit Saab after an attempt to sell it to small Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker Cars failed. Things were already looking dire for a deal weeks ago. GM said early in the month it would consider offers for Saab until the end of the month and move to close the Swedish unit then if it appeared that it couldn’t be sold. Given it couldn’t save Saturn or Pontiac, Saab’s prospects for a GM-engineered solution had been slim at best.

GM said the move was not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process. Saab will satisfy debts, it said, including supplier payments, and Saab operations will be wound down in an orderly fashion.

Niche luxury carmaker Koenigsegg was another last-ditch possibility that fell through for the Swedish automaker, which did manage to sell some assets to China’s BAIC. Saab has around 3,000 staff, and about the same number in other businesses are going to find the Scandinavian winter particularly cold this year.

from Commentaries:

China picks European cars off scrapheap

GERMANY/Chinese carmakers are seeking to step into the gaps left by U.S. companies in Europe -- but while acquisitions may give them access to badly-needed technical know-how, global brands and exposure to new markets, the question is whether they have learnt from past failures.

With China now the world's largest car market, it's no surprise that Chinese carmakers -- which have few if any really solid brands within their home market -- want to start making more of a mark.

In theory, foreign acquisitions offer a quick way to do so. Meanwhile the credit crunch has thrown world-renowned but now distressed car marques such as Volvo, Opel or Saab onto the block at what look like rock-bottom prices.