As the Saab/Spyker/Swedish Automobile mess falls deeper into chaos and hopelessness, Saab’s erstwhile knight-in-shining-armour, Vladimir Antonov has been slowly backing away from the ugly scene. Indeed, his firm CPP Holdings was supposed to buy Swedish Automobile’s Spyker Supercar division, but that deal has been on hold while Swedish Automobile concentrates on keeping Saab alive. And though the Birmingham Post reports that CPP still plans on buying Spyker eventually, it’s clear that having washed his hands of the Saab situation, Antonov is looking elsewhere in order to secure a Victor Muller-free future. But could Britain really offer a loaded young Russian an appealing sportscar brand to sink his hard-earned (or not, whatever) cash into? Anyone know what TVR is up to? Actually, it seems Antonov has gone one better than TVR, and has secured the right to make an “all-new” Jensen Interceptor from the ex-Jaguar plant at Browns Lane, Coventry. Does it get any more wealthy-Russian-trying-to-make-his-mark-on-the-British-sportscar-scene than that? According to Autocar, the new Interceptor will feature aluminum chassis and bodywork, with an attendant “ultra-exclusive” pricetag, and will be shown sometime next year ahead of a 2014 rollout. Because, oligarch.
SvD.se reports that would-be Saab rescuer Vladimir Antonov is considering legal action against the European Investment Bank and the Swedish Government, for keeping him out of an ownership stake at the failing Swedish automaker. Says Antonov
I have therefore decided to investigate the possibility of taking legal action, including but not limited to claims for damages, which may be of interest to various parties, including myself, the EIB, some officials at the EIB, the Swedish government and some government officials personally. By denying SWAN (Swedish Automobile) and Saab Automobile access to the funding that I offer, what these companies want and still desperately want, both the Bank and the Swedish government acted against all involved parties concerned, particularly against Saab and SWAN’s employees , suppliers, traders, lenders and shareholders
Antonov is reportedly investigating whether he can sue individual ministers of the Swedish government, while the ministers in question angrily deny that they are working against the interests of the Swedish auto industry. Meanwhile, far from calling for the overthrow of the government, the Swedish press is investigating Saab’s outlays for “management services” in recent years, and has found that CEO Victor Muller may be siphoning cash off to the tax haven of Curacao.
A group of businesses that are owed anywhere between $198 and $744,083 could force ailing Saab to declare bankruptcy. They have turned to the Swedish Enforcement Agency, better known (and feared) in Sweden as the “Kronofogden.” That agency introduces itself as follows:
“Is there a bill you cannot pay? Or are you not getting paid by someone who owes you money? In both cases, it will be Kronofogden that you come into contact with. A debt that is not paid ends up in Kronofogden´s register. This register is open for all to consult. As a result, anyone wishing to find out how someone else manages their finances can check the register. If a person´s name appears in the register, he/she can find it difficult to buy on hire purchase, borrow money or rent an apartment.”
Currently, there are 48 entries on that list that claim that Saab owes them. Lots of suppliers. A few bill collectors. A patent attorney. One of the world’s largest CPA firms, Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, demands $104,904.
Strap on the man-pants, Saab fans, because there’s another heaping load of bad news for the Swedish brand this morning. First off, Saab’s mysterious Russian backer Vladimir Antonov has backed out of a deal in which he was to buy property at Saab’s Trollhättan plant and lease it back to the company, stabilizing its short-term cash position. Automotive News [sub] quotes an Antonov rep as saying
The property sale is now being discussed with external investors
Apparently the Swedish real estate investor Hemfosa has stepped into the breach and sources say a deal could happen quickly. Antonov’s man added that his boss was still interested in securing a shareholding in Saab, a move that has been awaiting approval by the European Investment Bank for some time now. But despite Antonov’s insistence that he’s not going anywhere, the real estate deal pullout is troubling. After all, if Antonov were really the Saab zealot he claims to be, willing to support and revamp the brand at any cost, wouldn’t he want to own the Trollhättan plant? Wouldn’t he want deed to the factory in case Saab, as it exists now, goes into bankruptcy? This is the first indication that Antonov is treating his Saab involvement as an investment rather than a crusade, which is frankly a bad sign for what’s left of the Swedish brand. On the other hand, with Chinese firms chopping up Saab, what’s a businessman to do?
“There is almost no chance for the government to approve Pangda’s purchase of Spyker’s stake, let alone their plan to set up a new joint venture in China,” so said Zhang Xin, an analyst at Beijing-based Guotai Junan Securities, to Bloomberg. “The deal doesn’t fit in the government’s plan for consolidation.” (Read More…)
Saab has received wire transfers of around €30m from both Gemini Investments and the Chinese dealer group PangDa, reports Aftonbladet, and it will be using that money to pay off its supplier debts which could use up most of that cash (Saab’s supplier debts are estimated by DI.se at between two hundred and four hundred million kroner, or as much as €44m). Leaving aside the issue of how that money was able to be transferred from China to Sweden in a matter of two days (more on that from Bertel here, the short version: the deal should need Chinese government approval), there are serious questions about Saab’s ability to restart production. After all, the €30m from Gemini is debt, while Saab owes PengDa for an undisclosed number of vehicles that it bought with its investment. Unless those cars are sitting somewhere waiting to be shipped, Saab will have to pay off its suppliers and then build the cars on what is essentially credit from PengDa. Meanwhile, that’s not the only demand on Saab’s finances and attention, as CEO Victor Muller is planning on taking a bonus of over half a million dollars, a decision that is creating fresh problems of its own.
Saab’s deal with the Chinese automaker Hawtai has failed in a predictable manner, as the struggling Chinese partner apparently didn’t receive government approval for the deal. Saab-Spyker’s announcement of the deal’s collapse explains [via AN [sub]]
Since it became clear that Hawtai was not able to obtain all the necessary consents, the parties were forced to terminate the agreement with Saab Automobile and Spyker with immediate effect. The parties will continue their discussions about a possible cooperation, however now on a non-exclusive basis
This isn’t the first time that the Chinese takeover of a Western brand failed due to the Chinese government’s insistence on industry consolidation, as the Hummer-to-China deal failed for similar reasons. Meanwhile, we should have seen this coming a mile away…
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.
Yesterday, Spyker CEO Muller said everything is peachy. Saab “is not on the verge of collapse,” Muller said to a rapt audience of reporters, while, as Reuters snidely remarked, “Saab was presenting new vehicles already shown at the Geneva auto show.” Muller promised that “a small glitch does not change the fact that cars are being made,” and that Saab would have the widest and newest range in its history next year. This year? No problem at all. Just that output would be more weighted towards the second half of the year. Which in itself would be a miracle, and outpacing the competition, because in Europe, auto sales are more weighted towards the first half of the year. This was yesterday. Now is today. (Read More…)
While other manufacturers have problems getting parts, Saab has problems getting parts. But for different reasons.
“Production at Saab stopped for a second day on Wednesday as the money-losing automaker faces payment problems with its suppliers,” reports Automotive News [sub]. They add that Saab said it will start production again on Thursday, after money problems have been settled. According to the Automotive News report, Saab made a very inadvisable move: They did not pay their shipping company. (Read More…)