The Swedish National Debt Office has approved Saab’s deal to sell property to its Russian backer, Vladimir Antonov, but the Swedish firm is still waiting on approval of the deal from the European Investment Bank. Saab’s production operations have been shut down for two weeks, since the automaker began having trouble paying its suppliers. The EIB says its must simply review the deal, which would include the sale of Saab’s property to an Antonov-owned bank as well as the release of the remainder of Saab’s EIB loan, although GM gets to review the deal as well before it goes through according to thelocal.se. And since GM has long opposed Antonov taking a large share of Saab, which owns rights to some of its latest technology, Saab is reportedly also talking to several Chinese firms about partnerships that could save the struggling automaker.
Automotive News [sub] reports that Saab CEO Victor Muller
said Saab was talking to a wide range of Chinese automakers about a tie-up to help the carmaker weather its current crisis. He did not name those potential partners, but described them as “niche players and big boys.”
But Muller added that teaming up with a large manufacturer was more difficult for a smaller brand like Saab. Partnering with a local niche player would give Saab a stronger voice.
So, who is Saab talking to? An obvious candidate is Beijing Motor, which nearly bought Saab and ended up purchasing some of its older tooling for outdated versions of the 9-5 and 9-3. But Reuters reports that Beijing’s CEO denied any talks with Saab at the New York Auto Show. Reports indicate that Saab is in talks with “at least” two Chinese automakers, although Saab did recently close a deal with China Automobile Trading Company, to become the Swedish brand’s new Chinese importer.
With Antonov’s stake increase dragging through different levels of European government approval, Saab wants to get its workers back on site in Troellhattan by Wednesday of next week. With sales already suffering, production shortages of new vehicles will be brutal on the company. But if Antonov’s stake gets held up by the EIB or GM, Saab may have no choice but to turn to China for help. With SAIC rehabbing the once-moribund Rover-MG remnants to hesitant British approval, and Volvo moving forward under the Geely umbrella, the prospect of selling a European brand to the Chinese isn’t as scary as it once was. But, with the Chinese firms investing ever more in their own brands, will Saab even find a white knight in the Middle Kingdom? There are no guarantees in this business…