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Car-maker Saab files for bankruptcy

Car maker Saab has filed for bankruptcy, giving up a desperate struggle to stay in business after previous owner General Motors blocked takeover attempts by Chinese investors.

Chief executive Victor Muller personally handed in the application to a court in Sweden, ending his two-year effort to revive the company that over more than 60 years has become known for its rounded saloons and quirky design features.

He said he had to pull the plug after GM, which still owns some technology licences for Saab, rejected a last-ditch financing plan involving a Chinese company. "That basically was the last nail in the coffin of this beautiful company," he said.

While experts say the company is likely to be chopped up and sold in parts, local officials in the town of Trollhattan, where Saab employs more than 3,000 people, were holding out hope that a new buyer would emerge to salvage the brand.

"Our absolute hope is that the bankruptcy administrator will aim for a solution where the company is sold in its entirety," Mayor Paul Akerlund said.

Mr Muller used his luxury sports car maker Spyker Cars to buy Saab from GM in 2010, promising to restore its Swedish identity, but the company ran out of money just a year later.

Even as production stopped and wage payments were delayed, Mr Muller fended off bankruptcy by selling company properties and lining up financing deals with investors in Russia and China. He bought time by placing the company in a reconstruction process under bankruptcy protection.

But the deals fell through, blocked by regulators or by GM, which was concerned that its technology would end up in the hands of Chinese competitors.

Originally an aircraft maker, Saab cars began after the Second World War with the first production of the two-stroke-engine Saab 92. It soon became a household name in Sweden and in the 1970's it released its first turbocharged model - the landmark Saab 99.

Saab sales peaked at 133,000 cars in 2006. After that they dwindled to 93,000 cars in 2008 and just 27,000 in 2009, as GM - itself in bankruptcy protection following the financial crisis - prepared to wind down the brand.

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