Originally created 03/09/99

Volvo shareholders OK buyout



GOTEBORG, Sweden -- Ford Motor Co.'s $6.5 billion buyout of the car division of Volvo moved an important step forward Monday with the approval of Volvo shareholders.

The vote came following questions from shareholders on Volvo's future strategy, particularly what the company plans to do with its large cash hoard.

Volvo chief executive Leif Johansson said the company, which recently bought a 13 percent stake in rival Swedish truck- and bus-manufacturer Scania, would keep reviewing possible acquisitions, and consider buying back its own stock if Swedish law were changed to allow that.

After the sale to Ford, Volvo's main businesses will be commercial trucks and engines.

"Volvo has strong positions in the world market today, but we cannot rest on that," he said. "Without strong ... growth, further strengthened by acquisitions within certain areas, there is a risk that we will be overtaken."

Approval came swiftly.

"Ford is a good industrial owner. The price is fair," the managing director of the influential Swedish Small Shareholder's Association, Lars-Erik Forsgaardh, told the national news agency TT.

Ford executives have stressed that Volvo's current management and factories will remain and Volvo cars will retain their reputation for quality and safety.

Auto analyst Stephen Girsky of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter said the deal is advantageous for Volvo, which can use the purchasing power of the world's second-biggest automaker to reduce its production costs.

"I'm excited about it," he commented from Geneva.