In the Saab soap, it looks like Vladimir Antonov does no longer want to be invited back. Swedish Aftonbladet reports that “Vladimir Antonov is pissed” (at least that’s Google’s translation for “Vladimir Antonov är förbannad”) and is looking into legal action against Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Finance Minister Anders Bork and Maud Olofsson, Minister for Enterprise and Energy. (Read More…)
Now that it has been first leaked then confirmed that the European Investment Bank EIB will not let Russian financier Vladimir Antonov get close to Saab, Antonov says he had known that all along.
Antonov’s spokesman Lars Carlstrom told Reuters that his boss “has known for a few weeks that the EIB would not let him invest in the iconic Swedish car firm,” Reuters reports. That revelation should come as another blow to Saab’s crumbling bastion of enthusiasm, Saabsunited, which had reported just yesterday that “Antonov is trying to save the situation.”
With the troops left dazed and demoralized, the generals practice the ancient art of finger pointing. (Read More…)
Every good turn deserves another, and in response to America’s bailout of its most vulnerable automakers, the EU is investing in its least viable automakers. Having invested $547m in Saab, the European Investment Bank is announcing a $458m loan to Jaguar Land Rover, the troubled luxury divisions of Tata Motors. Automotive News [sub] reports that JLR will use the cash to develop micro- and full-hybrid drivetrains and generally improve fuel efficiency. Does this include a rumored Jaguar gas turbine hybrid? Officials won’t give details, but Tata’s Ravi Kant does go on the record to say
This will support the progress of turnaround in Jaguar Land Rover’s business in challenging market conditions, alongside cost cutting measures, increase of volumes and the improved margins strategy currently being implemented by Jaguar Land Rover
Which leads us to believe that this won’t do anything to prevent the planned shutdown of at least one of JLR’s UK plants.
One more obstacle to the Spyker-Saab deal has been eliminated, as BusinessWeek reports that the EU has approved the Swedish government’s guarantee of a €400m ($547m) loan to the company from the European Investment Bank. EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes approved the loan today, saying it would not cause “any undue distortions of competition,” and that Saab had offered “adequate remuneration” and collateral. The EIB still has to give the loan final approval, a prospect that Swedish government officials say is likely, despite the fact that €320m of the package was originally intended as an environmentally-friendly car development fund. As Bertel Schmitt put it, “keeping the lights on in Trollhättan while GM delivers parts doesn’t quite fit the purpose.” Unless of course you’re willing to justify anything to get your hands on the new 2010 9-3X “Cross-Combi,” which SaabHistory claims can now be pre-ordered from the remaining US Saab dealers. And if the sedated Swedes in this video are anything to go on, the 9-3X is sure to be, well, a Saab.
It’s the day after the Saab-bomb exploded in Sweden, and the media are pouring all over it. Of course, all kinds of “car experts” and “auto analysts” are having their say. Saab workers are expectedly sad and disappointed. And everybody’s blaming everybody and anybody. The unions blame the government, the government blames Koenigsegg, Koenigsegg Group are blaming time and bureaucracy, and the public is generally pretty pissed off with GM. And it all seemed to have come as julekvelden på kjerringa. But what on earth happened? Who pulled the plug? Who said enough is enough? And why now, all of a sudden? The EIB loan was allegedly just around the corner. Will anyone else buy Saab? What about the Swedish government? GM? Does anybody even care? Well, the 500 or so who bought a new Saab in October care – what about their warranties?
Looks like GM may have done some creative accounting after all – at least according to Swedish Government and their consulting firm KPMG. As we’ve reported the last couple of days, Saab’s rescue has been hanging by a thread due to questions around the company’s financial situation prior to the start of the financial crisis. Saab needs the EU to approve the Swedish Government’s guarantee of an EIB loan to Koenigsegg group if the deal is going to go through. If Saab, during the summer of 2008 – when the financial crisis started – were not in sound financial condition, the EU cannot, will not, approve Swedish government’s guarantees to the EIB loan, and the loan will not be granted. And reports from di.se yesterday almost laid that possibility to rest, with reports that GM had lost $ 5.100,- on each Saab-car sold during the last 8 years. Now, as commentator dlfcohn and others at ttac, as well as several commentators at di.se have pointed out, creative accounting can be useful in major corporates i.e to avoid taxes in tax-heavy countries. This, apparently (at least according to Swed.gov’t/KPMG) was the case with GM/Saab.
Swedish business site di.se has done some numbercrunching, and figured out that GM has lost SEK 35,000,- (eq aprox $ 5,100, at the current exchange rate) on each Saab sold the last 8 years. As many of TTAC’s readers have pointed out in various comments, GM never made money on Saab. Truth is; they lost a total of SEK 39 billion (3.9 billion Euros) during their ownership, according to di.se’s analysis . The last 8 years has been heavy; a loss of SEK 32,2 billion, or 35.000,- kronor on each Saab sold. That’s $ 5.100,- on each car. This year alone GM has had to take an SEK 6.2 billion cost on the ailing carmaker, SEK 5.2 of those are amortization of debts. This is why it’s crucial for Koenigsegg Group that the EU commission rules that Swedish government’s guarantees on Koenigsegg’s loan from the EIB are not subsidies. But since Saab has been on life support for so long, it would be almost impossible to defend Saab as a healthy company, and without the Swedish government’s guarantee, the financial plan from Koenigsegg Group will fail. Maybe they can argue that when it comes to Saab, there are no subsidies, just business as usual.
Saab has not had an easy path to salvation. The Koenigsegg Group has had to provide finances, agree to a price and conditions with GM, get loan from European Investment Bank (EIB),and coax the Swedish Government into guaranteeing loans. Now there’s one more hurdle left, and it’s the same challenge that scuppered the Opel to Magna deal: The EU.
Reports of recent weeks in the Scandinavian media have told us that the EU is thinking the Saab deal over. And when mighty EU thinks, things take time… So, what are they thinking about? They have to decide whether Swedish Govt’s guarantees to SAAB’s loan in the European Investment Bank should be considered subsidies or not. EU countries are not allowed to subsidize unprofitable companies – and the EU has some questions on SAAB’s and Koenigsegg Groups financial plan, and Saab’s results prior to the reconstruction. So the whole thing might stretch into next year until – or if at all – the deal is closed. Incidentally, questions about the anti-competitive nature of the German government’s support of the Opel to Magna deal killed that sale already. But does GM want Saab back as badly?