Our Daily Saab: A New Administrator, A New Deal, Same Old, Same Old

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
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After enduring a rocky relationship with Saab’s management, Guy Lofalk is officially out as court-appointed administrator for the ailing Swedish brand. But although Saab boss Victor Muller had long hoped for Lofalk’s ouster, the news wasn’t all good for his slow-motion “rescue,” as Lofalk’s first replacement had to step down before he even began his duties. Reuters calls the abortive administratorship of Lars-Henrik Andersson Saab’s “latest embarrassment,” but TTELA reports that Andersson’s “defection [was] not based on a pessimistic assessment of Saab.” On the other hand, at least one of Andersson’s colleagues thinks he dropped out because Saab is “screwed.”

In any case Soderqvist seems to be the last remaining Saabtimist in Sweden, insisting he believes in the new plan to save the zombie brand, and he will serve as long as he continues to have faith… so what’s the new plan anyway?

JustAuto reports that

European supplier body CLEPA estimates up to EUR700m (US$910m) could be made available for beleaguered Saab to restart production, if plans by Chinese manufacturer Youngman and an unnamed Chinese investor bear fruit.

“That means Holmqvist. “Youngman has already spent a lot of money, if nothing else to protect the investment they have already made.”

And where, pray tell, does this faith come from, that a Chinese bus manufacturer and an unnamed “financial investor” is ready to drop nearly a billion dollars on the auto industry’s most notoriously undead brand?

The CLEPA boss also revealed this week’s mood had swung from one of gloom to hope following his receipt of a bank statement indicating Chinese manufacturer Youngman had paid Saab EUR3.4m, believed to have covered overdue Swedish government taxes.

The supplier chief also detailed how Muller had been urged to declare bankruptcy in a bid to avoid any personal liabilities, but had resisted, a move Holmqvist endorsed.

“We have been up and down listening to Victor Muller,” he said. “On Friday I was quite pessimistic and on Friday night he [Muller] sent a copy of the statement slip that the money had been sent by Youngman.

“Then, on Monday, he was pressed by people around him to file for bankruptcy. They were afraid they would be personally responsible for debts. But he refused and he was right because the money arrived and he got a respite again. Another rabbit hopped up from the hat – I knew what was going on, but I did not think it was going to be in time.”

Where to start with this? How about the fact that €3.4m is hardly an indication that almost a billion bucks is forthcoming.. especially given the difficulties of transfering money from China? Or what about the fact that the transfer in question was for a transaction that Lofalk considered “a new obligation” (forbidden during reorganization), an accusation that was met with a claim that it was part of an earlier deal and intended for salaries, not taxes? The unknown identity of the “investors” willing to drop €500m on Saab? The fact that these investors, not Youngman, will control the brand (in order to keep GM happy)? The fact that US dealerships aren’t selling the cars they have, making a production restart largely pointless? In any case Holmqvist admits that his group stands to lose “a lot of money” if Saab goes bankrupt and is willing to back any plan (reality, it seems, notwithstanding).

The 16th was supposed to be the day that decided Saab’s fate, but the brand has been given another weekend to get the mysterious Chinese money into its accounts. A hearing is now scheduled for Monday, at which point cash (likely upwards of $60m) must be on-hand. An optimistic new administrator, and desperately credulous suppliers mean nothing if November and December salaries aren’t paid by then and the tax man is left wanting. Muller and his rotating cast of supporting characters are good at buying a week here and a weekend there, but that can’t go on forever. And the real tragedy is that all these delays have only made it more likely that Saab will die on the week before Christmas.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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