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Questions from Brussels may threaten Saab sale

An emergency loan vital to completing the sale of Saab Automobile has been held up by questions from the European Commission, possibly jeopardizing the proposed deal.

The Commission has a number of questions about the state guarantees provided by Sweden in connection with the loan, which recently won approval from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The scrutiny from officials in Brussels means the deadline for final approval of the loan could be pushed back as late as January.

Saab’s current owners, US-based General Motors (GM) has been clear about wanting to sell the troubled unit by the end of the year at the latest.

Having the loan in place is a prerequisite for luxury Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg and China’s BAIC to complete their proposed purchase of Saab.

According to a document reviewed by the TT news agency, the European Commission wants assurances that Saab did not have economic problems last summer which could have impeded eligibility for state subsidies.

In addition, the Commission wants additional information about the model used by the National Debt Office (Riksgälden) in showing that Saab was eligible for state guarantees for the entire loan.

The Swedish government can only begin to examine whether it will actually guarantee the approximately 4 billion kronor ($570 million) loan after the Commission issues its ruling.

Until then, Saab won’t have access to the money and the deal which would make Koenigsegg Group the automaker’s new owner can’t be completed.

An initial agreement signed by GM and Koenigsegg Group in June included language stipulating that the deal would be completed by the end of September.

Earlier this autumn, Saab CEO Jan Åke Jonsson warned that the sale would not be complete until the end of October.

Now Saab spokesperson Eric Geers has indicated that a few more weeks may elapse before pen can be put to paper – but everything hinges on a decision from the European Commission.

After receiving the additional information now requested from Sweden by the Commission, it has two months to issue a ruling on whether or not to approve the loan.

With the material not expected to be in the hands of the Commission before November 17th, it may take until January for a final ruling, although the Commission may reach a decision earlier.

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CARS

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
 
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
 
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
 
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
 
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.
 

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
 
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
  
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
 
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
 
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
 
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.