Antonov sets sights on Saab ownership

Antonov sets sights on Saab ownership
Spyker Cars, which owns Swedish carmaker Saab Automobile, is to sell its sports car business to a British firm controlled by Russian financier Vladimir Antonov.

“Without Spyker had we not been able to buy the Saab Automobile last year, but now the Spyker operation has become a small fish in a big pond,” said Saab’s chairperson Victor Muller in a Spyker statement, revealing that the company is in need of more money for its development.

Spyker has signed a statement of intent to sell the business for €15 million ($20.6 million), as well as an additional €17 million to be paid at a later date.

Spyker’s sports car operation serves as security for a loan of €31 million, from Vladimir Antonov to Victor Muller’s company Tenaci. The loan facility expires on April 31st.

If the loan is not repaid then Antonov earns the right to buy the firm. The deal means that Spyker will be relieved of debts and interest payments, the statement read, adding that full focus can now be applied to Saab.

Vladimir Antonov was until the Saab deal last year, Spyker Cars’ largest owner, but was forced out as the formal owner so that General Motors would agree to sell its troubled Swedish subsidiary to Spyker. On paper he was bought out, but in fact it was with money lent by him to Victor Muller’s company.

On Thursday he indicated that he also has ambitions to become an owner in the Swedish carmaker.

“It is a question of time before I am. Sooner or later it will happen,” he said to the TT news agency.

In reality Antonov is already a powerbroker behind Saab, having loaned a total of 700 million kronor to enable Victor Muller to acquire the Trollhättan-based firm.

Victor Muller will remain as CEO of Spyker’s sports car business until a successor is appointed, at which point he will become chairperson.

Spyker Cars was founded by Victor Muller in the Netherlands around 2000 with the aim of developing and manufacturing high-end sports cars. In recent years, sales have hovered around 35 cars per year.

The actual manufacturing was transferred to a subcontractor in the UK last year.

Spyker’s share, traded on Euronext in Amsterdam, rose after the news of the planned trade, climbing 12 percent to €5.69 by 10am.

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