A second small luxury car maker, this time Spyker of the Netherlands, is talking to General Motors about buying Saab Automobile, a week after Sweden's Koenigsegg dropped its bid and a day after Wyoming-based private investment firm Merbanco Merchant Banking confirmed it was out as a bidder for the Swedish unit, media reports said on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Spyker, which made just 43 EUR200,000-plus cars last year, told Reuters the automaker was interested in Saab and talking to GM but he declined to say whether it had submitted a bid.

GM, which has been restructuring its European operations after a period in bankruptcy protection earlier in the year, last night said it would consider offers for Saab until the end of December and then move to close it if no suitable deal can be reached.

Spyker itself reportedly has never turned a profit and has had to secure financing since it was resurrected as a luxury car maker in 2000 to compete against Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley.

Its roots go back to 1875, to a family firm that once built a coach for the Dutch royal family and later moved into automobiles and aircraft, but was liquidated in 1926.

The firm received rescue financing in 2007 from Abu Dhabi's sovereign fund Mubadala, which holds 23%, while Russian banking tycoon Vladimir Antonov holds 29.9% and chief executive Victor Muller 10%, according to Reuters.

Saab has not made a profit since it was taken over by GM 20 years ago and had predicted a loss of SKR3bn (US$434.5m) this year and again in 2010.

It needs huge investment to bring its models up to date (the current 9-5 can trace its ancestry to the 1980s 9000 model though an all-new replacement is about production-ready) and reverse the sales dive of recent years. Many analysts believe the brand has little future in an industry struggling with overcapacity.

Spyker CEO Muller told Reuters in July that it still needed to secure financing for 2010.

Meanwhile, Swedish media said the country was balancing between hope and despair on Wednesday after GM gave Saab a one month deadline to find a new owner or be closed.

"A month-long voyage between hope and despair," AFP quoted local news agency TT as saying, after GM's late Tuesday announcement.

Saab, an aircraft maker which built its first prototype cars in 1947, now risks simply disappearing.

Saab chief executive Jan-Aake Jonsson told TT GM's announcement was "the best decision one could hope for," shortly before flying home from Detroit where a meeting had taken place between representatives from Saab, GM and the Swedish government ahead of yesterday's GM board meeting that discussed the marque's fate.

"It was an important answer we received today. It shows GM is looking at future possibilities for Saab with a new owner," Annette Hellgren, the head of Saab's Unionen union, told TT.

Tabloid Aftonbladet, Sweden's most widely read newspaper, said closure of the iconic brand remained "just around the corner."

According to Dagens Nyheter, "Saab's two decades under GM's wing were a disappointment for both parties and serves unfortunately as a deterring example for potential bidders."

The daily said "uncertainty and worry" would continue for the coming month, noting that "Saab's profitability problems can't be resolved, even if GM finds a buyer."

Earlier, Merbanco president and chief executive Christopher Johnston confirmed to Reuters his firm was out of the running.

GM informed Johnston on Tuesday that Merbanco was out after a board meeting in which Saab's future was discussed.

"We were disappointed to learn we were not invited to move forward in our efforts for Saab," Johnston said in an email to the news agency.

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