By on April 11, 2011

Saab ended last week with “no solution in sight,” but after a busy weekend it seems that the Swedish brand has found a way to keep rage, raging against the dying of the light. Bloomberg reports that

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?

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8 Comments on “Saving Saab: Property Sales Grants New Lease On Life?...”

  • avatar

    Why would SAAB sales be sinking?
    They did last year in comparison to sales targets.
    Which source of information says that they do now? 
    I’d like to see the figures on which this statement is based – in black and white, and right away!

    Lease-backs might be a rather tricky instrument to generate cash – but then, SAAB’s situation may call for extraordinary measures. As I’ve posted earlier, I’m sure SAAB is to stay, even if they next two years might not bring along the easiest of rides. From 2013 onwards, with a new generation 9-3 in the marketplace, SAAB will be able to make money – and as I see it, there you have Mr. Antonov’s most evident motive to invest.

  • avatar

    Saab of San Diego has 16 new Saabs in stock. 6 of them are 2010 models. Saab of Orange County has gone from advertising prices that are $10K off MSRP to prices that are $5,500 to $7,500 off of MSRP, so I guess that means that Saab demand is no longer hypothetical. I must admit that a new 9-3 was mildly tempting at $21,575, but they are no longer worth a chance at $24,225. Oh well. I’m sure it would have been an expensive disaster anyway.*Ltd_Avail*-Santa_Ana-CA/964035493

  • avatar

    Saabista63, you are right about the information, sometimes I wonder about the boys on these blog site, and jump on news before it is completely verified….I also think they just comment to comment. It was either this site or that had Saab sales up %500 from last year. Gosh, It has only been 1 YEAR since SAAB broke from GM….These things take time and I am sure the suppliers are not giving SAAB any sort of breaks on payment schedules…The industry standard now is 90 days…I bet SAAB is being held to 60 or less. 

    CJinSD, that is a deal on a new SAAB. I think we all forget cars are a total waste of money, SO, we might as well drive something that makes us happy.

  • avatar

    Near as I can tell, 164 US Saab dealers are selling 31 cars on an average business day. That works out to 5 cars per dealer per month. That’s enough to sustain one sales trainee per dealer. With discounts around 20%, being a Saab dealer is a costly hobby for everyone else involved.

  • avatar

    I just saw my first 2011 9-5 on the road – it looked very nice in “carbon gray metallic”. I thought they had just gone on sale very recently – but it seems like they have been available since last June!

    And I live in “Saab country”…

  • avatar
    Paul W

    Saab reports that even if they get an immediate injection of capital, production will be down for another week. The Spyker stock continues to plummet, down more than 30% since mid-February.

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