IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ready to welcome Antonov and Convers Group

This week we might get one step closer to welcoming a new big shareholder into Spyker Cars, the parent company of Saab Automobile. The reason is that this week the Swedish National Debt Office (NDO) is expected to complete their investigation into Vladimir Antonov and his Convers Group. If the NDO's investigation concludes that Antonov and Convers Group can be accepted as a part owner of Saab, then we will be one important step closer to him actually becoming a part owner.

Vladimir Antonov at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show

Last week the Swedish Government announced that they would, under certain conditions, let Saab sell its properties to a company controlled by Antonov. The conditions were set to prevent this from being a transaction to bleed Saab of values, but also to secure that the transaction couldn't be used to launder money. The Government’s decision was most likely taken on the basis of the recommendation from the NDO. And even if the conditions are unusual, one might think that this deal wouldn't be sanctioned if signs of criminal activities have been found. The conditions are probably there just-in-case. After all, why would someone with a shady past stick his neck out in a Saab deal that has the world's attention?

Minster of Enterprises, Maud Olofsson, tells
the press that Saab can sell property to Antonov.
Picture from

Regarding the ownership issue, the Swedish Government will most likely again follow the recommendation from the National Debt Office, which is the office in charge on the Saab case. In addition, the European Investment Bank (EIB) must approve any new owner. But if the Swedish Government says yes, then it’d be very strange if the EIB says no. After all, the Swedish Government has guaranteed Saab's loan from the EIB and therefore the EIB takes no financial risk regardless of who is owner of Saab.

Then the last hurdle will be General Motors (GM). It has been reported in the media that GM now accepts that Antonov can become a part owner of Saab. And why wouldn't GM? It seems that GM has more to lose if Saab goes under. With Saab alive there will be a constant transfer of money from Saab to GM, e.g. payments for components and royalty. And for all I know, Saab might even still do important engineering work for GM.

As far as I am concerned, Antonov is very welcome as a part owner. Not just because he has access to money and banks, but also because he seems to have a genuine interest in Saab. His first car was a Saab 9000 Aero, bought in 1994, which he says he loved. I don’t know about you, but I remember the thrill of getting my first car. And if your first car is a great car like a Saab, then the memories and nostalgic love can last a lifetime.

And it was probably his passed love for his Saab car that made Spyker Cars bid on Saab in the first place. Back in 2009, Spyker Cars was in the running to buy the Brawn GP Formula One team. But by November it was apparent that they wouldn't succeed. Around the same time Koeniggsegg Group's attempt at buying Saab fell through. Antonov then suggested to Victor Muller that Spyker Cars should make an attempt at buying Saab from GM. And they succeeded, but one of the conditions for the sale was that Antonov had to sell his shares in Spyker Cars.

In other words, he had a Saab 9000 that he loved, he came up with the suggestion to buy Saab, and he even stepped aside so Saab could be saved. Three good reasons to welcome Antonov with open arms.

Another reason is his passion of cars and motorsport in general. He first met Victor Muller at the Le Mans 24 hour race in 2005. The Convers Group's Lithuanian based bank Snoras, was sponsoring a Le Mans team and their pitstop depot was next to the depot of Spyker Squadron. The two men hit it off. Two years later when Spyker Cars were in desperate need of more funding, Antonov invested in Spyker.

Spyker Squadron car with Snoras sponsoring

One of Antonov's companies also recently bought North One Sports which is the promoter of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The WRC is FIA's rally championship and has such stars as Sebastian Loeb, Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen. Once upon a time Saab had a very successful rally team. Saab's roots are in rally, and Antonov likes rally. A good fit.

Another sign that Antonov likes both Saab and motorsport, is his participation in the Midnight Sun Rally last year, when he drove a Saab 99 turbo.

Antonov during the Midnight Sun Rally 2010.
Picture from

So this will indeed be an interesting week. Just like every week since Spyker Cars took over Saab. Stay tuned for news to come.