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Key Chinese minister endorses Saab takeover

Miao Wei, China's minister of industry and information technology, said he supported "in principle" the planned purchase of Saab Automobile AB by Chinese firms Pang Da and Youngman, the first official indication of Beijing's reaction to the rescue plan.

Last week, Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. signed an initial deal to pay 100 million euros (869 million yuan) to take over troubled Swedish carmaker Saab, owned by Swedish Automobile.

Chinese government approval is considered crucial to the deal.

Asked Tuesday whether the ministry would back the deal, ministry head Miao Wei said: "We support it in principle."

The Chinese government is one of a group of companies and institutions that must give their blessing to the deal.

Saab's former owner, General Motors, still has preference shares in the automaker and is a major supplier of components. GM must approve the takeover.

A green light is also needed from the European Investment Bank and the Swedish government, all creditors to Saab. But gaining Beijing's clearance may prove particularly tricky because of a strict, price-sensitive policy on overseas acquisitions.

Chinese authorities have halted planned investments in the past, such as Saab's failed deal with Hawtai Motor Group in May and Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial machinery's bid for GM's Hummer, which collapsed in 2010.