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National Debt Office opens up for Saab loans

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National Debt Office opens up for Saab loans
Production lines are still silent in Saab factories on Friday
06:40 CEST+02:00
On Thursday the National Debt Office (NDO) took a small step towards Saabs recovery by opening up for the cash-strapped carmaker to receive loans from other sources than the European Investment Bank (EIB).

"This morning we received a final proposal from Saab dealing with solutions

for their financial problems. We have expedited it (to the government) ... and

by close of business today we will send a letter to the government with a

recommendation," NDO official Daniel Barr confirmed to AFP Thursday morning.

The application to the NDO was "about the release of its security with

respect to Saab property," Saab spokesman Eric Geers said.

By the end of the day it became clear that the office were willing to accept that the company receives a cash injection from another source than the EIB.

The National Debt Office has a say in Saab's financing because it guaranteed a EIB loan to Saab but a final decision must be made by the Swedish government itself.

Spyker said earlier this week it was "in discussion with a financial institution on the sale and lease back of Saab Automobile's real estate property," adding a decision was subject to the approval of the NDO.

The Dutch company rescued iconic Swedish brand Saab at the last minute in January 2010 by buying it from US auto giant General Motors.

But the company did not meet its sale objectives for the year and last month Saab started halting production amid conflicts with suppliers over unpaid bills.

Saab said last week production was stopped "until further notice."

Geers told AFP Thursday that Saab staff would stay home at least until the end of this week.

Swedish press reported Thursday that the application filed was between Saab and a foreign party, believed to be Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov.

At the time of Saab's sale, Antonov was blocked from taking a stake in the company by former owner GM, on concerns over its intellectual property rights in the carmaker.

Antonov said in March he was ready to invest 50 million euros ($70 million) in Saab and would want to take a 30-percent stake in the company and earlier this month, he filed an application to do so.

Bo Lundgren, head of NDO, told daily Dagens Nyheter that the office will receive more information on Antonov on Friday and that he hopes the office will be ready to present a final recommendation on Saab's proposal to the Swedish government before Easter.

Swedish spokesperson for the Antonov group, Lars Carlström is confident that the Russian financier will get the green light.

“There is nothing that could stand in the way,” he said to DN.

But even if Thursday's application is approved and Antonov is allowed in as part owner, there is no guarantees that Saab will be saved.

Lars Holmqvist, CEO for the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), thinks that whatever is on the table now it is too little too late. The government should have stepped in as early as 2009, he told DN.

“It is too late now. Saab has lost too big a part of the market and no one places any trust in the company now,” he told DN.

Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg said on Thursday that he did not want Saab's financial woes to become the government's problem.

"As the situation is now, we must conclude the negotiations but it is a

difficult situation where there are a lot of remaining complications and these must be resolved by those responsible for Saab," he told public television SVT.

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