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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How far is the EIB willing to go to keep Antonov at arm's length?

This post is based on my own assumptions and my own speculations. It should not be taken as the truth. If you only want hard facts and news from reputable news providers, then you should skip this post.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) clearly distrusts Antonov. According to Svenska Dagbladet, this distrust is based on previous business relations. With this as a background, I am asking how far the EIB is willing to go to keep Antonov at arm's length. First I look at what the EIB has done so far to keep Antonov out of Saab, and then I speculate on just how far the EIB is willing to go. And my conclusion is not a good one for Saab...

Antonov forced out of the acquisition of Saab
When Spyker Cars NV was trying to buy Saab Automobile AB in the end of 2009, Antonov was, together with Victor Muller, the driving force behind the deal. But he got forced out. According to information leaked to the press, the reason was that Antonov was supposed to be involved in criminal activities. And neither General Motors, the Swedish Government nor the EIB wanted to do business with a criminal. And this stance was something the public accepted without asking questions. For the EIB, who was reluctant to do business with Antonov, the allegations were perfectly timed. The EIB was to give Saab a EUR 400 million loan, but did not want to be in business with Antonov. The criminal allegations kept Antonov out of the deal and at an arm's length from the EIB.

The result of these allegations of criminal ties was that both the Swedish Government and Antonov himself gave reputable investigation firms the task of investigating Antonov and his business and look for proof of crime. The result; none of them found any evidence of any criminal activities or ties to criminal groups.

Antonov not allowed to buy Saab's properties
When Saab got into a liquidity crunch in March of this year, a property transaction between Saab and Antonov's company was set up to improve Saab's liquidity. The transaction was quickly approved by the Swedish National Debt Office (NDO), which has guaranteed the EUR 400 million Saab loan in the EIB, and by the Swedish Government. And why wouldn't they? With this transaction Saab would reduce the loan from the EIB and the Swedish state could thereby guarantee a smaller loan. And the buyer of the property had been exonerated of previous allegations. So there was no reason to stop the property sale.

But for the EIB nothing had changed. The EIB still didn't want to be involved in a business deal where also Antonov was involved. Despite the fact that he had been exonerated of the previous allegations. The solution for the EIB was to set conditions that still would hold Antonov at arm's length. One of the conditions was that the whole loan amount of EUR 217 million that had been drawn so far, had to be repaid within 90 days. If Saab could meet this condition, the EIB would no longer be loan provider to Saab. If Saab couldn't meet this condition, Antonov would not be allowed to buy the property. Either way, the EIB would not have to deal with Antonov in the future.

Antonov still unwanted as Saab owner
A couple of weeks before the deal for property transaction was constructed, Saab had filed an application with the Swedish National Debt Office and the EIB to let Antonov become part owner of Saab. On 28 April the NDO approved Antonov as part owner of Saab. The NDO said it had seen no evidence what-so-ever of criminal activities or ties. Antonov had been interviewed by the NDO had given good answers to the questions and also explained his ambitions for Saab.

Now, more than two weeks later, the EIB has still not communicated what its decision is. Why is that? My opinion is that the EIB still does not want to do business with a company where Antonov is involved.

EIB's solution to their latest "problem"
The EIB knows that if they do not approve Antonov as shareholder in Spyker and thus part owner of Saab, people will start to ask why. And this time we will demand an answer. For some reason the EIB is very reluctant to do business with any company where Antonov is involved. But will not tell us why. Maybe because the reasons are unjustified? 
And so the best solution for the EIB seems to be to delay its decision long enough to make the decision unnecessary. In other words, to slow things down long enough for Saab to go bankrupt. Then once again the EIB will not have to do business with Antonov.

So for the EIB it is more important to not have to deal with Antonov than the importance of the jobs of some 8,000 workers in Sweden. More important than the jobs of thousands of people in distribution and sale of Saabs world wide. More important than the feelings and serenity of you and me and thousands of other Saab owners and Saab fans.

All I can say is that the EIB better have extremely good reasons to keep Antonov at arm's length!!!