Saab laments ‘mixed messages’ from Sweden

Saab laments 'mixed messages' from Sweden
Tensions were high during a debate between Sweden’s enterprise minister Maud Olofsson and the CEO of Saab Automobile televised on Sveriges Television (SVT) Sunday night.

“We get mixed messages from the government,” said Jan Åke Jonsson, whose company entered a court-supervised restructuring on Friday in an effort to stave off bankruptcy.

The move came after the Swedish government continued its refusal to use taxpayer money to help rescue the troubled automaker.

Jonsson added during the broadcast that Saab had been contacted by several potential buyers were interested in the company, including investors and other auto manufacturers.

But before any possible purchase moves forward, Jonsson said the government needs to send a clear signal regarding state-backed lending guarantees.

“It’s important for us to get a signal from the government. I think the signals we’ve been getting from the government have been different,” said Jonsson.

To illustrate his point, he explained that the government had said previously that Saab should request a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), but that Olofsson is now saying the application should have been made by Saab’s owner General Motors (GM).

Saab has, according to the Dagens Industri (DI) newspaper, submitted a request to the EIB for a €500 million ($647 million) loan.

But before a decision is taken, the EIB wants to know whether or not Sweden will provide state-back loan guarantees.

No guarantees are expected, however, until Saab has presented a credible business plan.

“It’s too optimistic,” said Olofsson in reference to Saab’s current plan.

Olofsson is set to visit Saab’s manufacturing base in Trollhättan on Monday, where she is expected to get an earful from angry workers and community leaders as she attempts to explain the government’s position.

Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin also participated in the televised debate on SVT’s Agenda news programme.

As she squared off with Olofsson, Sahlin explained she was positive toward Saab’s plan.

“The effects on taxpayers would be worse if Saab doesn’t get the chance to test its plan,” she explained.