It has become a tradition at the „iconic” Saab: For the sixth month in a row, former carmaker Saab can’t make payroll. Saab employees did read the familiar note on their website today that salaries are “delayed.” Their head of HR, Johan Formgren, told them that sadly, he cannot “confirm any exact date when the salaries will be paid.” Saab spokesman Eric Geers told the media that he also does not know when wages will be paid. And who is to blame? Victor Muller? Fugitive Valdimir Antonov? All-around-whipping post GM?
No way. It’s the Chinese.
In a text message cited by Göteborg Expressen, Victor Muller writes:
Vladimir Antonov, the Russian “financier” who was feted by the acolytes of the zombie Saab as the second (after Victor Muller) coming of the dear Jesus, had his bank taken away from him.
More than $392 million of assets of Antonov-controlled Snoras Bank may be unaccounted for, central bank Governor Vitas Vasiliauskas told Bloomberg. Snoras’s operations were halted, and a state administrator was appointed by the Lithuanian government after the bank ignored recommendations to reduce its credit risk.
As a precautionary measure, government and bank traded accusations of felonious conduct. Reports Reuters:
“The government and central bank said they had found a risk of insolvency and possible criminality. The bank meanwhile has accused the government of ‘robbery’.”
Just to be sure, Swedish Radio mentions that “Antonov lent a large sum to Victor Muller which allowed Spyker to buy Saab.”
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.
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.
“Based on the information we have, it looks like we will start up production tomorrow,” Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs told Reuters today. That’s called a double hedge in the propaganda business.
But based on the information TTAC has, it looks like production will indeed take place on Friday. On Friday, an important visitor will come to Trollhättan: Pangda Chief Executive Pang Qinghua, with entourage. Today, Pang is in Stockholm for a chit-chat with Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson and the Swedish debt office. Their goodwill is needed to admit Pangda as an investor in Saab. And the Minister has a busy schedule …
Saabsunited, once a gathering place for brand necrophiliacs and people with an-ignition-key-near-the-gearstick fetish, has morphed into a Vladmir Antonov fanzine. The banner on top of the site used to show the roof of the Saab plant in Trollhättan. Now it shows the roof of the Saab plant in Trollhättan with an “Approve Antonov” flag photoshopped-in.
There is a big blue square at the left of the homepage of Saabsunited that says “Support Vladimir Antonov” (according to Wikipedia, he is $ 300 million worth, how much more support does he need?) Clicking on the square leads you to a letter writing campaign that urges you in 9 languages to voice your displeasure with the Swedish government. You also are to DEMAND from the Swedish Prime Minister that he approves Antonov as a Saab shareholder. I’m sure a wave of Saab-spam will change the Prime Minister’s mind.
It is a mere coincidence that Saabsunited acronyms itself to ”SU,” an abbreviation previously reserved for the Soviet Union.
Recently, the tone on “SU” became shrill.
Supposedly, the idea of the Saab / Pangda deal was to skirt requirements to obtain Chinese government approval. As we have explained on the day the MoU (as Muller sees it) or contract (as Pangda sees it) was signed, it would be most silly to try to get around the Chinese government. They have a whole array of measures to demonstrate their displeasure if they don’t like a deal.
If ChinaCarTimes is correctly informed, the paperwork was barely dry and the Chinese government already made its annoyance felt. According to a CCT report, the Chinese government issued a warning to Pangda. The story is written in Chinglish, but this is what it seems to be saying:
Today, 3,700 employees of Saab received an invitation to come to an all hands meeting tomorrow, Wednesday. It will be a break from the doldrums. In Trollhättan, the lines have been down for three weeks now because Saab has no money to pay parts suppliers, reports Automobilwoche [sub]. Tuesday ended in Sweden without a solution. Suppliers, unions and Swedish politicians demand immediate action, or Saab will go down the drain.
Talk about a Chinese savior has died down. All hopes hinge on Vladimir Antonov, and the sale of the factory to the Russian, well, business man. The problem is: The real estate is collateral for a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). Saab told Automobilwoche that the sale is “no sure” due to harsh demands by the EIB.
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