GM Calls Spyker's $3B Saab Lawsuit 'Baseless'

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Muller Spyker Chief Executive and Chairman of Saab Automobile arrives for a news conference in Trollhattan
Victor Muller, Spyker Chief Executive and former Chairman of Saab Automobile, arrives for a news conference in Trollhattan September 7, 2011.

General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) talked some smack at Dutch carmaker Spyker N.V. following its Monday announcement that it would sue GM for $3 billion over the bankruptcy of Saab Automobile AB.

"Here's our response to the Spyker lawsuit: We have reviewed the complaint, and it is completely without merit. We will vigorously defend the company against these baseless allegations," Dave Roman, GM's director of financial communications, said in an email Monday night.

Spyker, based in Zeewolde, Netherlands, is suing GM for $3 billion on behalf of Saab and says it will keep "a very substantial share of Saab Automobile's award when the proceedings are successful." Spyker says an anonymous third-party investor is funding the lawsuit against GM in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.

The tiff between the two companies originates with a failed restructuring deal between Spyker, which briefly owned heavily indebted Saab, and China Youngman Automobile Group. Spyker alleged Monday that GM unlawfully interfered in the restructuring deal between Spyker and Youngman.

"GM's actions had the direct and intended objective of driving Saab Automobile into bankruptcy," Spyker said Monday.

Detroit-based GM bought a 50 percent share in Saab in 1989 and spent an additional $125 million in 2000 to complete the acquisition before selling the company to Spyker after years of losses.

Spyker alleges that GM sought to deliberately derail the Saab deal with Youngman to decrease competition in the massive Chinese automotive market. Saab went bankrupt with around 13 billion Swedish krona ($1.93 billion) in debt on Dec. 19, 2011. GM's Chinese sales have risen substantially in recent years, up 8.3 percent in 2011, and up 11.7 percent so far for 2012, although it's not currently clear whether rising sales are the result of lowered Chinese competition without Saab.

"Ever since we were forced to file for Saab Automobile's bankruptcy in December of last year, we have worked relentlessly on the preparation for this lawsuit, which seeks to compensate Spyker and Saab for the massive damages we have incurred as a result of GM's unlawful actions," Spyker CEO Victor Muller said.

Roman said the company would not issue any additional comment on the lawsuit and did not immediately answer questions regarding competition in the Chinese market and GM's record sales there in 2012.

In a somewhat karmic turn of events, though, Saab is currently in the process of being acquired by the Sino-Japanese joint venture National Electric Vehicles Sweden AB (NEVS) to build electric cars for the Chinese market.

General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) shares fell 19 cents to $19.85 Monday afternoon.

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