Chinese firms reveal Saab profit ambitions

Chinese automakers Pang Da and Youngman, the new owners of Sweden's Saab, have stated that the firm will turn a profit no later than 2014, according to an ambitious plan laid out on Monday.

Chinese firms reveal Saab profit ambitions

According to a preliminary business plan filed with the Vänersborg district court in southwestern Sweden and presented to Saab’s creditors Monday, Chinese companies Pang Da and Youngman intend to supply €610 million ($855 million) in long-term funding to Saab.

Saab, which revealed last week that the two firms had offered to buy it for €100 million from its Dutch owner Swedish Automobile (Swan), would also immediately receive €50 million in bridge financing and would tap a European Investment Bank credit for another €63 million, the court filing showed.

The funding is intended to prop up Saab, which halted production six months ago as suppliers stopped deliveries due to mountains of unpaid bills and which is currently restructuring under bankruptcy protection, until it can begin on the long road to recovery.

“The financing is set to meet Saab’s future financing needs,” Pang Da chief executive Pang Quinghua told reporters in Stockholm through an interpreter.

The creditors at Monday’s meeting did not have any initial objections to the plan, which is widely seen as Saab’s last chance at survival, and the court decided not to halt its reorganisation.

The creditor’s meeting on Monday will examine the plan, which is widely seen as Saab’s last chance at survival.

According to the plan presented Monday, the company will start production again next year, making between 35,000 and 55,000 cars, and by 2014 it will be turning a profit.

By 2016 Saab is expected to be pushing out up to 200,000 cars a year, the plan showed, adding that the carmaker’s biggest growth market will be in China, which is expected to account for a third of its global sales.

Returning Saab to profit will meanwhile entail cutting costs by one billion kronor (€111 million, $155 million), according to the plan.

Saab itself, which currently counts around 3,700 employees, said in a statement that the cost-cutting plan would include slashing 500 jobs.

The court filing meanwhile showed that Saab would continue producing cars at its Trollhaettan factory in southwestern Sweden, but that Saab cars would also be made in China going forward.

Saab has previously said it had about €220 million in unpaid bills to suppliers, but the speedily assembled business plan did not show how creditors would be repaid.

Saab’s court-appointed administrator Guy Lofalk said that part of the plan would be presented soon.

While the court and creditor approval of Saab’s continued restructuring was good news for the car maker, it was too early to declare its woes over.

The Youngman-Pang Da buy-out still requires approval from a long line of interested parties, including Chinese authorities, the European Investment Bank, the Swedish debt office and Saab’s former owner General Motors.

The latter is expected to be the most difficult to get on board, due to among other things, concerns over its technology going to China.

Swan’s charismatic chief executive Victor Muller, who in recent months has presented one plan after another in his bid to save Saab, said late last week he thought all the stamps of approval would be secured within a few weeks.

Swan, formerly known as Spyker, rescued Saab from the brink of bankruptcy early last year when it bought the company from GM for $400 million.

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The day a naked Swedish footballer caused an unexpected scandal

In 1949, a Swedish football player made international headlines when he dared to bare in Brazil.

The day a naked Swedish footballer caused an unexpected scandal
Scroll down for the whole image. Photo: PrB/TT

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Brazil would seem to be one of the last places in the world where a bit of nudity could cause offence, never mind create an international uproar. And yet that is exactly what happened 70 years ago when Swedish football player Sven Hjertsson dropped his drawers during a match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Faced with a broken waistband and unwilling to depart the field and leave his team a man down during the close match with Fluminense FC, the 25-year-old defender for Malmö FF made the decision to do a quick change near his team's goalpost.

From the Swedish point of view, the brief nudity this entailed was insignificant. Based on what the Swedish players, coaches and journalists had seen on Brazilian beaches during the 1949 tournament, they clearly assumed the Brazilians would feel the same way. What happened next proved just how vastly different the two countries' views of acceptable nudity were.

“The next day, the Swedish 'Naked Shock' took up full pages in the [Brazilian] megacity's newspapers. The upper-class Fluminense… had never been involved in anything like this,” journalist Henrik Jönsson explained in a 2009 article in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.

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In retrospect, it's difficult to say who was more shocked: the Brazilians by Hjertsson's mooning or the Swedes by the Brazilian reaction to it.

“It was a scandal! The Swedish journalists who were on the trip told us about the uproar. People went and confessed after the game. Dad thought it was ridiculous. On the beach, the Brazilians had minimal swimwear,” recalled former Swedish football player Bertil “Klumpen” Nilsson, whose father Sven Nilsson was a Malmö FF coach, in the Sydsvenskan article. “Hjertsson's white butt became the big topic of conversation when Dad came home. No one understood the Catholic double standard.”

The incident laid bare Sweden's and Brazil's different approaches to nudity. Photo: PrB/TT

In the end, Malmö FF lost the match 2-1. The team – the first from Sweden to be invited to Brazil – did not have an easy time in the tournament. The effects of a long flight, difficulty adjusting to the hot and humid climate of Brazil, and a serious bout of diarrhoea that decommissioned half the team during the first week, had all taken their toll. Champions at home in Sweden, the team nonetheless left Brazil without a win.

READ ALSO: Ten rules for getting naked in Sweden

As for the “Naked Shock”, it seemed only to burnish Hjertsson's reputation back in Sweden, and perhaps even overshadow his legacy to some extent. During his 12-year career at Malmö FF, the team won gold four times in the national championships. He also played 13 times for the Swedish national team, which was considered one of the world's greatest football teams between 1945 and 1950. In 1950, the year after the incident in Brazil, Sweden ranked third in the world ranking, ahead of Brazil in fourth place.

Hjertsson died in 1999, but the photo of him from 1949 lives on as a singular glimpse into international football seven decades ago.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.