GM threat to Saab sale ‘regrettable’: minister

The Swedish government has described as unfortunate a statement by General Motors (GM) this week threatening to block the transfer of technology licences if two Chinese companies buy Saab.

GM threat to Saab sale 'regrettable': minister

“That was a regrettable announcement,” Swedish Enterprise Minister Annie Lööf told reporters in Stockholm.

Her comment came a day after GM said it would end technology-sharing licences to Saab and stop supplying the 9-4X SUV model to its insolvent former subsidiary if it were acquired by Chinese companies Pang Da and Youngman.

But GM said it would still supply some components.

That announcement jeopardises a last-ditch deal reached by the two firms last week with Saab’s current Dutch owner, Swedish Automobile, or Swan to buy the beleagured carmaker for €100 million euros ($134 million) and supply €610 million in long term funding.

Saab, which halted production six months ago as suppliers stopped deliveries owing to mountains of unpaid bills, would also receive €50 million in immediate bridge-financing to keep it afloat during its ongoing restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

The deal, the last in a long line of schemes presented by Swan’s charismatic chief executive Victor Muller in recent months to rescue Saab, was hailed in Sweden as a real chance at salvation for the carmaker but still requires a green light from a number of interested parties, including GM.

“When we last week saw the possible Chinese solution it was truly a joyous occasion. But with GM’s announcement yesterday (Monday) that they are saying

no to this solution we now have a spanner in the works. They have to start all

over again,” Lööf said.

GM sold an already bankruptcy-prone Saab in early 2010 to Swan – at the

time called Spyker – for $400 million, had already announced at the weekend

it was considering blocking the deal, which it said “could negatively impact

GM’s existing relationships in China or otherwise adversely affect GM’s

interests worldwide.”

A spokesperson for Pang Da told Swedish news agency TT the two Chinese

companies were working hard to resolve the GM stumbling block, and Lööf said

the Swedish government was “acting as a door-opener in the contacts between

Chinese authorities and GM.”

However, she stressed, “at the end of the day, it is the parties, Saab and the Chinese (firms), who need to reach a deal… Now (Saab’s court-appointed) administrator and the private parties need to sit down at the negotiation table and find a long-term solution for Saab and its employees.”

Saab currently employs some 3,700 people, but has said it is planning around 500 lay-offs as part of the pending Chinese deal.

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Norwegian’s subsidiaries in Denmark and Sweden go bankrupt

The struggling low-cost airline Norwegian has reported its staffing subsidiaries in Denmark and Sweden have filed for bankruptcy, meaning roughly three quarters of its pilots and crew will lose their jobs.

Norwegian's subsidiaries in Denmark and Sweden go bankrupt
A Norwegian Air Shuttle plane: Photo: Norwegian

In a press release issued on Monday afternoon, the airline said that the financial support packages offered by the Swedish and Danish government had not been sufficiently generous to keep the subsidiaries which employ pilots and cabin crew in the two countries solvent. 

”The impact the Coronavirus has had on the airline industry is unprecedented. We have done everything we can to avoid making this last-resort decision and we have asked for access to government support in both Sweden and Denmark”, said Norwegian's chief executive Jacob Schram in the statement.  

“Our pilots and cabin crew are the core of our business and they have done a fantastic job for many years.”

“It is heart-breaking that our Swedish and Danish pilot and cabin crew subsidiaries now are forced to file for bankruptcy, and I’m truly sorry for the consequences this will have for our colleagues,”  Norwegian's chief executive Jacob Schram said in the statement.  

“We are working around the clock to get through this crisis and to return as a stronger Norwegian with the goal of bringing as many colleagues back in the air as possible.”

The company said it was also immediately ending staffing deals with the OSM Aviation, which supplies it with crew based in Spain, UK, Finland, Sweden and the US.

The company said that 1,571 pilots and 3,134 cabin crew would be affected by the move, with only the 700 pilots and 1,300 cabin crew based in Norway, France and Italy being kept on.

In the release, the company blamed the “the lack of significant financial support” from the Swedish and Danish governments, which it contrasted with that of Norway, which has agreed to pay “all salary related costs” while staff are furloughed. 

The companies declared bankrupt include: 
Norwegian Pilot Services Sweden AB
Norwegian Pilot Services Denmark ApS
Norwegian Cabin Services Denmark ApS
Norwegian Air Resources Denmark LH ApS