The Swedish government has agreed to let Saab free up collateral now used to back the EIB loan, of which Saab so far has drawn 217 million euros, the people said. The freed-up collateral allows Saab to sell property to Antonov’s company. The property to be sold would include at least parts of Saab’s factory in Trollhaettan in southwestern Sweden, where the carmaker is based.
Saab (technically still called Spyker Cars) also recently sold its Spyker sportscar business to Antonov who continues to be the only major investor involved in Saab and its ongoing rescue. And though Antonov continues to be happy to pour his money into the firm, it’s not as simple as just writing a check: Antonov keeps offering support and governments keep shooting them down. Where’s the private capital love?
While Sweden hasn’t let Antonov inevst directly in Saab-Spyker (soon to be called “Swedish Automobile”), his latest rescue attempt was blocked by the Lithuanian government which regulates Antonov’s Bankas Snoras bank, which was in talks to provide emergency financing to Saab-Spyker. Talks with an Antonov-owned Latvian bank, Latvijas Krajbanka, also seem to have failed, although it’s not clear if government regulators were to blame, as was the case with Bankas Snoras.
So, thanks to the Swedish government’s willingness to release collateral (an interesting move, considering Saab’s uncertain state), Antonov will buy portions of Saab’s facilities and lease them back to the firm. Because Antonov’s stake in Saab will be limited to 30%, this is another way to inject cash into Saab without taking a further equity position, but it’s not clear how it really improves Saab’s position. If anything, it simply hollows out the firm even further, leaving less to “save” (although the Saaabsunited guys point out that lease-backs are quite common in Sweden).
Once upon a time, the Saab-Spyker experience was seen as a scrappy, if somewhat overabmitious attempt to create a niche automaking empire…. after a year of independence, Saab’s sales are sinking and suppliers are demanding cash. The question now isn’t about Saab’s ability to claw its way back, but about Vladimir Antonov’s desire to keep the firm afloat. Antonov’s chances of making money from his investment in Saab have fallen to just about nil, and yet he continues to pour money into the firm. Why? Does he have a soft spot for underdogs? Is he deluding himself about Saab’s chances? Or is this simply a vanity project? Or is there a hidden reason for his continued support? What makes this mystery even more compelling is the fact that, without Antonov, Saab is dead on arrival. So what’s his game?