The Truth About Cars » Vladimir Antonov The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:46:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Vladimir Antonov Our Daily Saab: Muller Losing Faith, Antonov Going Down Wed, 30 Nov 2011 19:09:42 +0000

A TTAC tipster sent us a Teknikens Värld  interview with Saab’s long-suffering would-be rescuer, Victor Muller, in which the eternal Saabtimist seems ready to admit defeat. In essence, he admits that GM is unlikely to ever approve a plan involving Chinese firms, that the Chinese firms are throwing “money into a black hole” and that all the previous plans are off the table. Of course, Muller does seem to think that some kind of rescue may yet be possible, but he admits

If I doze off Saab would disappear in an instant

If Muller is losing faith, and doesn’t even have a hairbrained scenario to hype, it seems that the end may well be near. But then, the whole rescue of Saab is beginning to be eclipsed by questions about Muller’s erstwhile partner, Vladimir Antonov, who was recently bailed out of British jail, where he was being held on charges of embezzlement and document forgery. But first, to the Muller interview…

The following is an interview titled “Muller Does Not Believe In Th Chinese”:

Victor Muller doubts that GM will ever accept a Chinese Saab business. According to him, Youngman, Pang Da and Guy Lofalk sabotaged the whole business when they went from the original plan. It says Muller in an exclusive interview with the Teknikens Värld.

On the way home from Britain hits Teknikens Värld Erik Gustafsson, an unusually outspoken Victor Muller. The gate at Heathrow Airport, the plane to Stockholm, he says frank about Saab’s situation.

- This is how it goes when you put his partner in the back, says Muller continues:

- The deal was long time and the arrangement with a Chinese shareholding of 54 per cent was approved. Then began administrator Guy Lofalk run government affairs, to persuade the Chinese to a 100-percent ownership stake and GM slammed on the brakes.

Late yesterday evening, Swedish time, had GM in Detroit, a further meeting on Saab’s future, but Victor Muller strongly doubt one acceptance.

- I understand GM fully, it is clear that they do not want to jeopardize its market in China. But right now I understand the other side is not why the Chinese continue to pump money into the company. As the situation is, it just means to put money into a black hole, without getting anything back. The relationship with GM is so damaged that they (Youngman and Pang Da) can not even go back to the original plan.

While he acknowledges that the situation is tough, he means that there is a solution. He can not tell you how it looks, but he promises to fight till the end.

- If I doze off Saab would disappear in an instant

Muller may still be fighting for Saab’s future, but as prosecutors unwind the Vladimir Antonov situation, Muller could soon be forced out of the process. After all, Muller is said to have a personal debt to Antonov of upwards of €100m, and it seems highly likely that Antonov was using Muller to launder funds embezzled from his Baltic banks. Antonov ‘s sports business has been placed into bankruptcy, and he has stepped down as Chairman of the British soccer team Portsmouth, reports ESPN. And Latvian officials seem to be clear on the Saab connection as well, as the Moscow Times reports

Latvian officials on Wednesday said about 100 million lats ($200 million) was stripped out of Latvyas Kraybank to fund Antonov’s investment projects, including the ill-fated Saab bid.

And the investigation is ongoing, as BBC reports that

[Lithuanian prosecutors] said they were investigating everything that might have links to criminal offences.

They added they would be taking “all the necessary steps” to freeze assets belonging to Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas.

It seems inevitable that this investigation will eventually catch up to Muller, at which point he’ll have to plead ignorance of Antonov’s alleged crimes. And even if Muller does escape prosecution, his ability to organize a deal to save Saab will be fundamentally compromised by his association with Antonov. And as Muller himself says,

If I doze off Saab would disappear in an instant

The countdown continues…

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Our Daily Saab: Antonov Wanted In Europe, Was Saab “Rescued” With Embezzled Cash? Wed, 23 Nov 2011 16:27:31 +0000 If GM needed another reason to let Saab die on the vine, it just arrived: Vladimir Antonov, the Russian banking scion, longtime partner with Victor Muller in Spyker, and erstwhile Saab rescuer is wanted in connection with what the UK Press Association [via Google] calls

a pre-trial investigation into an alleged fraud and money laundering case that is threatening to destroy two Baltic banks.

Bertel noted earlier that Snoras, one of Antonov’s banks, had been forced to halt operations, but the issuing of a Europe-wide arrest warrant for Antonov is an even bigger black mark on the Russian financier. And it adds to an already-impressive family resume: Antonov’s father Alexander was shot seven times in a 2009 assassination attempt that has been connected to a Chechen blood feud, and the family has been accused of ties to organized crime by the FBI and Swedish authorities.

All of which puts an intriguing spin on the Saab drama: Snoras lost track of hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when Antonov was loaning at least $116m to Victor Muller for the Saab rescue. Though it could take years to get to the bottom of the story here, the short-term effect of this scandal is that it gives GM all the incentive in the world to continue dragging its heels. Now that Saab’s “rescue” appears to be less heroic and more of a way to hide allegedly embezzled funds, Saab now has the stink of scandal about it to go with the stink of failure. And it’s sounding like GM is ready to let its former brand simply disappear.

GM’s James Cain tells

We can continue as a supplier to Saab under the right conditions and circumstances but we are not prepared to continue to deliver the 9-4X and we are not prepared to continue to provide licenses to our technology if control of the company is changing… Let me be clear: Saab and Youngman can do whatever they deem best for the company. But if there is one hundred percent takeover of Saab, they will do it without the vehicles we supply, 9-4X, and without GM’s technology

Moreover GM won’t even negotiate with PangDa and Youngman, saying they only talk to Saab. And if the Chinese firms take over Saab, GM will cut the cord. Which leaves Victor Muller with a mess on his lap and (probably) some very curious policemen taking a sudden interest in his finances and the entire Saab deal. Though Saab itself may be approaching its final hour, the Saab story seems to have legs, and investigations could be reavealing new details for years to come.

Also, the Saabinistas that continue  to spam GM’s Facebook page with their pitiful “Let Saab go” campaign  could possibly soon rally behind another cause: “Free Antonov!”


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Vladimir Antonov: Screw Spyker, I’m Building A Jensen Tue, 20 Sep 2011 14:39:52 +0000

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.

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Saab: Antonov Considers EIB Lawsuit, While Questions Arise Over “Management Services” Money Fri, 29 Jul 2011 16:38:47 +0000 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.

Last year, Saab payed its owners at Spyker some 40m Kroner (about $6.3m) for “management services.” Of that portion, Spyker paid its CEO Victor Muller some $1.5m in compensation and bonuses… but that wasn’t the entirety of Muller’s payday. According to, another $630k was paid to a mysterious company known as Latin American TUG Holding (recently changed to Lat Management NV), a firm that is registered in the tax haven of Curacao. Nearly $300k of that money was reportedly earmarked to Muller.

On 26 January this year the company changed its name to Lat Management NV The company is engaged in freight and shipping operations, and also provides “management services,” especially in the automotive industry, according to documents from the Curacao Chamber of Commerce.

Victor Muller’s name is not mentioned in the documents. Instead there are two Dutchmen as contacts and CEO – Everardus Van Rutten and Johan Van Vlit. They represent Lat Management’s local representative company – Coral Administration and Management. The company is in turn a freight company, which also has a business to register offshore companies in Curacao.

When called Coral Administration and Management, we spoke to chief executive Johan van Vlit.

Who owns Lat Management N.V?

“I can not tell. It’s classified information,” he says, referring all questions about the company to Victor Muller.

But he confirms that the company Latin American Tug Holding changed its name to Lat Management NV In January this year.

One of the company’s activities is to provide “management services” in the automotive industry, are Victor Muller’s services provided?

“Well, it is he who does the job. But it’s better if you ask any questions to him, “said Johan Van Vlit.

When Saab is asked about the arrangement, Chief Information Officer Eric Geers is no more helpful.

Johan Van Vlit, representing Latin American Tug Holding NV, now Lat Management NV confirms to that Victor Muller performs the company’s “management services”. What is your comment on that?

“I can not confirm it, but would need to examine it in this case. But if he confirms it as you may well take it. ”

Saab liabilities of Enforcement pile up and wages have failed again. Do you think that the payment of four million to Latin American Tug Holding last year was justified?

“I don’t know all the numbers. But we are in compliance with all accounting rules. There is nothing strange about that. ”

When contacted Saab for further clarification, it reported that the $6.3m payment from Saab to Spyker was

payment for services performed by Spyker’s management of Saab’s behalf, including costs for the board. The payment also applies to the cost of various advisors and consultants paid by Spyker in connection with the acquisition.

But that would entail a few large staffs of consultants is not likely, according to the Dutch journalist Robert van den Oever, who has written a book about the Spyker and who have been following Victor Muller’s business.

“We know from earlier that Muller does not usually have a large group of advisers around him. He did not during the acquisition of Saab, nor in recent months as he has been working to find funding. It’s hard to believe that the costs of external consultants have been high, “he says, noting that Muller himself has said repeatedly that he works with a small group of people.

A Dutch shareholder’s rights group has already criticized Muller’s bonus arguing

The bonus is disproportionate. Given the large financial losses and poor sales, we wonder what objectives have been achieved that may justify a bonus

The fact that Saab can’t pay suppliers or workers while Muller is shuffling money off to Caribbean tax shelters (especially one so infamous that the Swedish government just concluded an agreement with it to crack down on tax evasion) is just one more piece of bad PR for a firm that’s pretty clearly circling the drain. And it certainly won’t help Antonov’s claim that he and Muller are as pure as the driven snow and the victims of discrimination. Muller has certainly done better out of the deal than anyone running a company that sold fewer than 30,000 cars last year has any right to expect… and he’s definitely done better than the employees he claims to be “saving.” Maybe it’s time for Muller and Antonov to just call it a day and pack it in.

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$36m Bridge Loan “Saves” Saab, Workers Paid, Production Could Resume. So What’s Sweden’s Problem? Wed, 29 Jun 2011 23:27:30 +0000

Almost two months ago, Saab was able to restart production after Gemini Investment Fund extended a €30m six-month convertible loan to the struggling Swedish automaker. Now, after another shutdown, it seems that Gemini has once again ridden to Saab’s rescue, as the company announces another six-month convertible loan from Gemini.

Swedish Automobile N.V. (SWAN) announces that it entered into a EUR 25 million convertible bridge loan agreement with Gemini Investment Fund Limited (Gemini), thereby securing additional short-term funding.

SWAN entered into a EUR 25 million convertible bridge loan agreement with Gemini with a 6 months maturity. The interest rate of the loan is 10% per annum and the conversion price is EUR 1.38 per share (the volume weighted average price over the past 10 trading days). SWAN may at any time during the loan’s term redeem it without penalty and it intends to do so once the funding from Pang Da and Youngman is received, in which case no dilution as a result of this bridge loan will occur.

Attention Chinese, Swedish and European Investment Bank regulators: you’d better cut through that red tape and approve the Pang Da and Youngman investments post-haste, or Saab will be back in the drink when these short-term loans mature. After all, hasn’t Valdimir Antonov been waiting for approval to buy into Saab since.. oh, 2009?

Before we dig into the latest Antonov-related nonsense, here’s what Saab CEO Victor Muller had to say about the most recent news:

I am relieved to report that we made the June salary payments this afternoon from the proceeds of the sale of cars we announced last Monday. We again extend our sincerest apologies to our employees for the hardship the late payment has caused to them. We have clearly gone through a very rough patch in the past few weeks and hopefully we can now reach agreement with our suppliers so as to ensure a resumption of our production in a controlled way. Our mid and long-term funding is secured by the Pang Da /Youngman agreements which are still subject to obtaining certain governmental approvals. Assuming these approvals are obtained, the Gemini bridge loan will be repaid in full.

But again, why would Saab be optimistic about getting approval for Youngman and PangDa any faster than they did for Antonov? If anything approval is more likely to be held up on the Chinese side, ala HUMMER. But even on the Swedish side, Saab and Antonov don’t seem to have many allies left. SaabsUnited notes that even though Sweden’s National Debt Office and GM approved Antonov’s stake in Saab “a long time ago,”  TTELA is reporting that Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt  says the matter is in the hands of the NDO. This prompted an Antonov spokesperson to quip

Now I understand why the trial of Vladimir Antonov took such a long time. Reinfeldt seems pretty lacking insight into the Debt Office, which said yes to Antonov’s ownership over eight weeks ago.

But beneath the bitter humor, there’s a nasty truth: if everyone is saying yes to the Antonov stake, the Prime Minister must have some reason for saying no… and even if he doesn’t, his irrational opposition has been enough to delay the deal so far. Even the Swedes don’t understand what the deal is, and that’s got to be troubling Antonov and Saab. Sure enough, the recent announcement that Minister of Enterprise Maude Olofsson would be stepping down from politics prompted a “personal” letter from Antonov, in which the Russian states

I think you are the person who ensures that Saab is getting the political and moral support needed to weather the storm

And with Olofsson leaving, Swedish authorities could cancel the recent real estate deal, or any other of the deals Saab currently has pending government approval… and Antonov’s letter (described by Olofsson’s secretary as “nice”) shows how worried he is. But if the letter showed signs of Antonov’s desperation a new rumor, if true, confirms that Antonov believes the Swedish government is totally against his involvement and will go to any lenghts to support Saab. According to SaabsUnited‘s parsing of a Dagens Industri report

Antonov will take ownership of GM convertible (lost in translation: redeemable preference?) shares. The value of this is reported to be 2.3 billion SEK (about €248 million), but GM is offering Antonov a substantial discount– between 800 and 900 million SEK (€86-97 million).

When Vladimir tried to buy and lease back Saab’s factory, I was in awe of the generous nature of the deal– it meant he could be a part of Saab’s future, but wouldn’t have any formal ownership in the company by name. Somehow, the EIB and Swedish government still got in the way of the deal. Not deterred, he’s back with another €80-90 million to buy 0.0005% of the company. He’s basically paying GM off in this scenario, taking away one of Saab’s largest creditors, and helping out their future cash position. In other words, he’s saving the day in a very big way for Saab if he’s successful– by taking on their debt. [Emphasis added]

Now, this could easily be wishful thinking… after all, it’s one thing to want to invest in a dying niche automaker, but it’s quite another to pay over $100m to GM simply as a way to take some debt off of Saab’s books. Especially if GM is cool with him investing anyway… and if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be offering this deal. But if this is rumor is for real, it shows that GM is anxious to drop its exposure to Saab, and that Antonov is so emotionally committed to Saab, he’s willing to personally assume over $100m of its debt. And you know what? After all the twists and turns that this story has taken, this wouldn’t even surprise me.

To paraphrase an old communist joke, there are two ways to save Saab: the difficult way and the impossible way. The difficult way is that the archangel Michael descends from heaven and magically fixes everything. The impossible way is that Saab builds a strong business case, starts selling lots of cars and attracts rational investors.

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Antonov Drops Out Of Saab Real Estate Leaseback, Youngman Deal Doubted Tue, 14 Jun 2011 15:25:56 +0000

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?

Which leads to another interesting question: if Antonov has been a generous sugar daddy thus far, why alienate him by cozying up to not one, but two Chinese firms? The answer lies with the EIB’s unwillingness to let Antonov take a timely stake in Saab, which needs short-term financing more than vague promises of long-term support. And though the Pang Da deal brought in some short-term cash, but much of the $352m invested by the two Chinese firms is in the form of longer-term financing, which won’t help Saab out of its short-term supplier woes. AN [sub] reports:

“What they have presented now is long-term financing, which is positive. But that does not solve today’s situation, which is very serious,” Svenake Berglie, chief executive of the FKG auto industry suppliers group, said on Tuesday.

He told Reuters his group estimated Saab’s debts to suppliers at 300-500 million crowns.

While the firm had worked out payment plans with some suppliers, talks were still taking place, Berglie said.

Meanwhile, even those longer-term deals with Pang Da and Youngman are still subject to approval from China, the EIB, Sweden and GM… which could take three months and may well not happen at all. Bloomberg has the latest round of analysts dashing cold water on any optimism surrounding the latest deal, reporting

“I have the impression that Saab is scrambling for any partner in China now,” said Lin Huai Bin, a Shanghai-based analyst at IHS Automotive, in a telephone interview. “If Saab wants to succeed in China, they need to find a sizable company with good profit and good government connections,.”

Youngman may find it difficult to convince the Chinese government to give approval for a manufacturing venture, given the company’s size and China’s wariness to allow further capacity expansion in the auto industry, Lin said…

China’s focus on controlling inflation and tightening lending may also limit the tie-up’s success, said Robert Theleen, chairman and co-founder of investment capital firm ChinaVest Ltd.

“The auto industry is low priority for the government at the moment,” said Theleen, who provides cross-border merger and acquisition advisory services for multinationals in China. “They’d also prefer to see how the Geely-Volvo deal pans out.”

There’s much, much more of that kind of analysis over at Bloomberg. It’s said that Saab would have to produce 100k+ units per year in order to even have a chance at a Chinese government approval of the deal… and Saab’s global sales record was 133k units and change. In case you’re still struggling with what this all means, here’s TTAC’s primer on learning to let go of Saab and move on. We suggest you give it a look.


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Saab-Spyker Is A Hot Mess Fri, 09 Apr 2010 19:06:58 +0000

Where to start with Saab-Spyker CEO Victor Muller’s plans for world domination? Why not with the craziest part? Despite declining sales, the boutique supercar arm of Saab-Spyker claims to be developing a “Super Sport Utility Vehicle” in the mold of the D12 Peking-To-Paris showcar. caused quite a stir when it revealed images of both a clay model and a test mule for this allegedly production-bound (yes, again) piece of madness. Moreover, news that Spyker won’t be invited to use Audi engines in forthcoming models caused at least one popular car blog to run the headline “Spyker’s New Ferrari-Powered SUV.” Because apparently Spyker can’t decide if it wants to use an AMG engine or a “supercharged Ferrari V8.” Does this give you a taste of just how goofy things have become ’round Saab-Spyker way? Well, it gets worse.

On to the Saab-flavored crazy. The boutique mainstream-model arm of Saab-Spyker is brimming with big plans, but before we get there, let’s take a moment to acknowledge just how disastrous Saab’s sales have been thus far. In the first quarter of last year (which was by no means the best sales year for Saab, at about 40k units globally), the Swedish brand sold 2,932 units in the United States. In the first quarter of 2010, Saab has sold a grand total of 813 units, with sales in March falling to a paltry 133 units. Yes, way.

But don’t worry, because Muller has the sales thing all planned out. He explains to Forbes:

I’m looking at our sales figure since we did the acquisition. We are looking at more than doubling our sales this year. We went from making 20,000 cars and selling 39,000 cars last year. This year we will be making 50,000 to 60,000 cars and selling all of them. So we are looking at a massive increase compared to last year. And next year, we should be back at the 100,000 car level.

But never mind the facts, this is the car business. Saab is upping production 18 percent, though even the Swedish government won’t buy their cars due to “dubious resale value.” And it’s not just the cars that came already-developed by GM that are grabbing headlines. A “retro-styled,” “teardrop-shaped” baby Saab has been rendered and written about extensively, even though Saab-Spyker’s business plan is about $1b short of making it happen (and that’s assuming an Opel Corsa basis). But hey, at least Victor Muller knows what he would name it.  And since Saab really is a big, grown-up car company, it must also have its own tuning arm, which will definitely be named “Viggen.” Every future Saab will be available in Viggen trim, doncha know?

So where is the money coming for all this? Russia, apparently. The more interesting question is what does Vladimir Antonov think he will get out of dropping $100m or so on a zombie brand, a money-losing supercar maker and their overly ambitious chief executive’s dreams of greatness? An insight into that comes from a translated Moscow Times interview with Antonov, by way of Saabs United. It’s a bit muddled, but apparently Antonov dreams of an auto empire of his own. A Russian unit building cars in Kalningrad that will apparently offer “Mondeo size at Focus prices.” A “Chinese unit” is planned as well, probably through an alliance with BAIC, which owns the IP to expired Saab 9-3 and 9-5 models. And Antonov makes it clear that Saab-Spyker isn’t a vanity project:

In fact, we have today is quite large [exposure] at Spyker. She lives in accordance with the business plan, Spyker, and repayment schedule, which arose long before the Saab on our horizon. Accordingly, these loans must be serviced, loans must be extinguished in accordance with this schedule. This is normal, this relationship “bank-client”. Spyker have always had relationships with the banks under the scheme is built. He was never, as they say, a favorite client, your customers. Just client.

So where is this ship of fools going? Who freaking knows. But it sure will be fun to watch. If nothing else, we have an excellent picture of the best-case scenario.

UPDATE (sort of): The new 9-3 will be built on the same Epsilon platform that has underpinned it since 2003… see what where this is going?

spykerd12 modelssuv spykerd12a Saab9-2 spykerd12b mulessuv spykerd12c Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 22