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Embassy doubts over Saab's Chinese saviour

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Embassy doubts over Saab's Chinese saviour
14:04 CEST+02:00
Saab's new partner Hawtai has inflated its production figures and changed chief executives numerous times over the past years, the Swedish embassy in Beijing warned in an internal report quoted by a Swedish daily on Thursday.

"According to the embassy's experience (Hawtai's) official figures may be exaggerated," Sweden's ambassador to China Lars Freden wrote in a report to the foreign ministry obtained by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.

In a deal unveiled on Tuesday, Hawtai is set to inject €150 million ($223 million) into Saab through a partnership including joint ventures in manufacturing, technology and distribution.

Hawtai said it produced 81,000 cars last year and said it has the capacity to make 200,000 cars a year.

SvD said its own sources put Hawtai's production figure for last year at 60,000 cars.

The embassy's report also said although Hawtai has existed for 10 years, it has produced cars for only about a year.

It added Hawtai's parent company, Hengtong Group, derives most of its profits from mining, energy, telecommunications, infrastructure, banking and real estate.

"According to the embassy's source, Hawtai's financial strength comes from mining rather than carmaking," the report said, according to SvD, adding that "Hawtai has changed chief executive six times over the past eight years."

"Technology transfer is central to Hawtai's interest in Saab. For Saab's long-term competitiveness it is reasonably important that the company keep its integrity," ambassador Lars Freden wrote in the report.

Tuesday's deal, which plans for Hawtai to take a 29.9 percent stake in Saab's Dutch owner Spyker, came as a last minute lifeline for the cash-strapped Swedish brand.

Saab halted production almost a month ago as suppliers halted deliveries over unpaid bills.

Swedish media reported that a Hawtai delegation visited Saab's plant in Trollhättan, in western Sweden. Production has not been restarted but Saab was to test-produce 15 to 20 cars Thursday.

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