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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Muller and Olofsson met the NDRC

TTELA reports that both Sweden's Minister of Enterprise Maud Olofsson and CEO of Saab Victor Muller have met the NDRC today. The NDRC is the Chinese department which more or less decides if Chinese companies are allowed to make investments with foreign companies.

"It was a good meeting where we exchanged information and discussed the Saab deal," said Erik Bratthall from the Ministry.

In other words, it looks like things are happening!

Government decision on Antonov within shortly

According to TTELA, the Swedish Government's decision whether to allow the Russian banker Vladimir Antonov to become part owner of Saab or not, is close. Peter Eriksson of the Moderate Party of Trollhättan, has been in close contact with people in the Government lately, and Eriksson tells TTELA that a decision is expected shortly.

Acoording to Eriksson, the reason for the hold up has been another stakeholder than the Government.

"The question of ownership is a complex issue and not quite as easy as it has been portrayed to be by among others the union IF Metall. Included in the issue is for example the agreement on the reconstruciton and the relationship between GM and Antonov," Peter Eriksson told TTELA.

Eriksson continued saying that it is the relationship between GM and Antonov which has delayed the decision. On GM's recent approval of Antonov, Eriksson said "Yes, and that can indicate that the issues have been solved."

When asked if that means that the Government also will approve Antonov, Eriksson said "If the issues are solved then I believe a dicision is close, I would say within a couple of days, but maybe not this week".

I would say that the events the last days, with GM approving Antonov and saying that they are awaiting contact from the Government, Antonov planning to hold a press conference, Youngman, Pang Da, Victor Muller and Antonov in discussions in Stockholm today, everything indicates that Antonov soon will be part owner of Saab!

Yes, last Friday was a good time to buy SWAN shares

On Friday last week after Saab had announced that it was unable to pay its employees the wages for June, I asked the question if it was a good time to buy shares in Saab's parent company Swedish Automobile NV. Now one can safely conclude that the answer was YES.

Since Friday last week Saab has announced that it has secured funding of EUR 66 million, enough to both pay its employees and to continue discussions with its suppliers to restart the car production. And the stock market has responded by sending the SWAN share up from EUR 1 on Friday afteroon to EUR 2.50 today. That's a hefty 150 percent rise!

Unfortunately I did not take this great opportunity. Did any of you?

Youngman and Pang Da in Stockholm

TTELA reports that Chinese companies Youngman and Pang Da are presently in Stockholm negotiating with Saab and Victor Muller about the long-term funding and ownership of Saab. As reported yesterday, Russian banker Vladimir Antonov had scheduled a press conference for this afternoon in Stockholm. This press conference was later postponed as Antonov had other matters to attend to. It is believed that these matters include the negotiations with Youngman and Pang Da.

So far this week Saab has raised EUR 66 million by selling cars, selling 50.1 percent of the Saab property company and by getting a bridge loan from Gemini. That would equal SEK 606 million. Earlier it has been said by Sven-Åke Berglie, who is the CEO of the suppliers association, that Saab needs SEK 700 - 800 million to restart production. According to Eric Geers of Saab, the company is working on even more funding plans, but he would not comment on the specifics of those plans. Anyway, the SEK 606 million should be enough to restart the talks with the suppliers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saab has paid the June wages

Seems like things have happen this afternoon. First Vladimir Antonov had to postpone the press conference planned for tomorrow afternoon. One might ponder why. Maybe good news are on the way?

The other thing that happened was that the employees at Saab finally got their June salary. In other words, a very good day for the employees at Saab! :)

Saab loans more money from Gemini

Saab has just issued a press release stating that the company, or it's parent company Swedish Automobile, loans an additional EUR 25 million from Gemini Investment Fund Limited.

This comes in addition to the EUR 30 million Saab loaned from Gemini in May. In other words, the total is now EUR 55 million. Both loans are convertible, and can thus be converted into shares. But in the press release it is made a point of the fact that the loan can be redeemed once funding from Youngman and PangDa is received and if so, the current shares in the company will not be diluted.

It is believed in Swedish media that Mr Vladimir Antonov is behind Gemini. If so, could this be a sign that he is certain that he will finally be allowed into Saab?

Vladimir Antonov holds press conference tomorrow - now postponed

As "Web Saab Story SAABLOG-IN" has mentioned in the comments section, this press conference has been postponed. The reason given is that Antonov has gotten several engagements concerning Saab that needs to be dealt with.

Vladimir Antonov, the Russian banker who is eager to invest in Saab but still awaits the approval of Sweden's Government and the European Investment Bank, will hold a press conference in Stockholm tomorrow afternoon. This will be an opportunity for him to give his point of view of the current situation that surrounds Saab, and also for Swedish media to ask Antonov questions directly.

As reported earlier today, General Motors has already approved of Antonov as part owner of Saab, but only if GM's preference shares, which holds a convertible bond of $326 millions in Saab, is bought by Saab/Antonov. When asked when this will be done, Eric Geers of Saab said to Swedish Radio: "As soon as possible. We need a system where we can be flexible and govern ourself.

Now GM is waiting for the Swedish Government to contact GM, so that they together can ensure that Antonov is approved.

So stay tuned for more news tomorrow! 

An increasing number of people ask "why?"

Vladimir Antonov who is eager to become part owner of Saab has been approved by both Sweden's National Debt Office and by General Motors. But the Sweden's Government and the European Investment Bank are avoiding making their decision, and thus effectively putting Saab and its suppliers and 6,800 employees in the Sweden's car industry in a position of great uncertainty about the future.

But now an increasing number of people in public positions are asking "why?". Why does not Antonov get approved? Why is the decision about Antonov not being taken? Why doesn't the Government do anything to help Saab?

Veli-Pekka Säikkälä, the union IF Metall:
"The Government has been extremely passive throughout Saab deal. They must send out the signal that anyone who wants to invest in the auto industry should feel confident that there is a Government that cares about the automotive industry. If they don't approve him [Antonov], then they have to tell us why"

Paul Åkerlund, Mayor of the Trollhattan municipality:
"Antonov has been ready for two months. The National Debt Office says he is clean, but the Government has refused to deal with the issue for some reason. It is very strange that the Government does not allow to bring in venture capital."

Per Bränneby, leader of the union of academics/Sweden's engineers at Saab:
"It would be good if Antonov could be approved and if the Government would push the issue. I do not know what is really the catch."

Svante Säwén, political editor
"The conservatives total perplexity leads to administrative barriers against willing investors who may be more devastating to the car company than the Government's constant attempts to talk down not only the Saab brand but also the industry's importance to our country."

Ulf Johansson, worker at Saab for 27 years:
"I and many others feel that the Government has acted horribly lame on this issue, rather sabotaging with the statements they make. It seems that they do not want any car industry in Sweden."

Johan Trouvé, CEO Chamber of Commerce in Western-Sweden:
"GM has approved Antonov. The National Debt Office has approved Antonov. But the Government holds up. Why is the question I would like a reply on from the Government."

Eric Geers, Executive Director of Communication at Saab:
"The National Debt Office gave its approval as early as 28 April. Even GM has said yes, so now the Government can not blame GM. It seems that he [Prime Minister Reinfeldt] has no idea what he's talking about."

Bo Lundgren, CEO of the National Debt Office, when asked why Antonov hasn't been approved yet:
"I, too would like to know why!"

Alrik Söderlind, Chief editor of Auto Motor Sport:
"The Government's decision on Antonov should have been taken long time ago. Let us hope that the Government's slowness does not kill Saab."

Håkan Juholt, party leader of the Social democrats, on how the Government refuse to take a decision on Antonov:
"A responsible Government acts quickly, wisely and with a steady hand when a crises that affect tens of thousands of jobs arise. It can not blame everybody else".

Robert Collin, automotive writer for Aftonbladet:
"Financier Vladimir Antonov has injected hundreds of millions into Saab, despite the Swedish Government's reluctancy against him. Maud Olofsson, Anders Borg and Fredrik Reinfeldt will not let him be part of the Swedish business life. They do not want the Russians in Trollhättan."

Stefan Löfven, leader of the union IF Metall:
"The National Debt Office, the Swedish Government and GM must now act constructively and the Government must assume a coordinating role. It is required when dealing with a business that is so important for Sweden."

Sven-Åke Berglie, CEO of the association of Swedish automotive suppliers:
"The Government should handle the issue, and not wait for the European Invesment Bank".

Antonov's letter to Minister Olofsson

On 22 June Vladimir Antonov wrote a letter to Sweden's Minister of Enterprise Maud Olofsson. Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has gotten a copy of the letter. In the letter he writes about his concern for Saab and asks Ms Olofsson how she can help to ensure that Saab get the fair treatment and attention it requires.

Read the letter below.

GM accepts Antonov

Dagens Industri online edition reports that GM and Vladimir Antonov has reached an agreement to allow Antonov to become part owner of Saab. To be approved by GM, Antonov needs to buy from GM a convertible bond (linked to GM's preference shares in Saab) of SEK 2.3 billion which GM has on Saab. But Antonov will get it at a large discount. DI writes that he will only have to pay around SEK 800 to 900 million.

Regular readers and keen Saab observers will remember that already in April it was reported that GM and Saab had reached a tentative agreement to allow Antonov to become part owner of Saab. If I may be as bold to suggest that this agreement also included a condition that Antonov had to buy the convertible bond, but at a price much higher than SEK 800 to 900 million. In the mean time Saab has gone from bad to worse balancing on the edge of bankruptcy. And Victor Muller's visit to GM last weekend was probably to negotiate the price for the convertible bond down. GM figured it's better to receive something than nothing at all, and lower the price. And when I'm at it, I would also like to suggest that the undisclosed Chinese company that bought 582 Saab cars on Monday can in fact be owned by Antonov and this company might have no intentions to actually receive and sell any cars.

SEK 120 million in "car purchase" and SEK 800 - 900 million to buy out GM would amount to around SEK 1 billion. The amount Antonov has said that he is ready to invest in Saab.

If the deal with GM is carried through, it would mean that GM is out of Saab, and the only obstacle that remains will be the European Investment Bank and the Swedish Government. The Swedish Government has been sitting idly by waiting for the decision of the the players. It is expected that the Swedish Government will approve Antonov if the other players have done so first.

Swedish writes that one source says that GM will announce this deal together with the Swedish Government. I guess the Government wants some praise for all the hard work it has done... 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweden, do the right thing. Give your people an answer!

The past week must have been one of the toughest in the history of Saab. Last Friday the company said that it was unable to pay wages to its 3,600 employees. Four days later Saab has managed to scratch together EUR 41 million, enough to pay wages, but probably not enough to restart production.

The Swedish Minister of Enterprise and the Prime Minister have both spoken ill of Saab the last two years. And the Government has done nothing to help its ailing car industry, as opposed to for instance the US, Germany and France.

Time and time again the Minister of Enterprise has said that it’s not the Swedish state’s responsibility to own a car manufacturer. But the Swedish state does not have to own Saab. There is an investor willing to risk his own money in Saab. And that man is of course Mr. Vladimir Antonov.

Mr. Antonov is not just willing to invest in Saab, he is eager to. And he has been eager ever since December 2009. In the end of March of this year, he even handed in an application to the Swedish National Debt Office asking them to approve him as part owner of Saab. An approval the National Debt Office gave in the end of April. They saw no reason why he should not be allowed into Saab. But when the approval and the National Debt Office’s recommendation were sent to the Swedish Government, it came to a hard stop. The Government has said that they will not make any decision until the European Investment Bank and General Motors have made their decision.

General Motors said already in April that they had reach a tentative agreement with Saab to approve Mr. Antonov as part owner of Saab.

The European Investment Bank has made no decision and refuses to comment on why.

Mr. Antonov and Saab are met with a wall of silence, where no decision at all represents the same as a denial. A Kafkaesque bureaucratic process where he is found guilty of not being suitable as a Saab owner, but nobody knows why.

At the same time Saab is balancing on the edge of bankruptcy. The management manages to raise some tens of millions euro to keep bankruptcy at arm’s length. But for how long?

There are 6,800 jobs at stake. 3,600 jobs at Saab and 3,200 jobs at the suppliers. Families can be torn apart. Childhoods can be destroyed. Hundreds of millions in taxes can be lost. Hundreds of millions in unemployment benefit and welfare benefits can come.

But the Swedish Government sits idly by, watching Swedish industrial history slowly crumble away.

Why can not a banker from Russia be allowed to invest his own money in Saab? A banker who has been exonerated of all previous allegations. A man the Swedish National Debt Office after a thorough scrutiny has found no reason to be denied ownership in Saab.

Sweden claims to be a democracy. But in a democracy a decision that affects a large number of people and a large region of the country should not be deliberately delayed and hold up. When asking why, the people should not be met with a wall of silence. That is not worthy of a democracy.

Sweden, do the right thing. Give your people an answer!

Antonov says Saab cars could be made in Latvia

According to Baltic Business News, the Russian banker Vladimir Antonov, who is eager to become part owner of Saab, has said in an interview that if he becomes part owner Saab cars could be made in Latvia.

When interviewed by Dienas Bizness, Antonov pointed out that there are vacant spaces in Riga and Liepaja that are suitable for production of cars. "We are seriously ready to discuss it," he said.

But to become part owner of Saab he first needs approval from the European Investment Bank, the Swedish Government and General Motors. Approvals that have proved to be difficult to obtain.

Saab sells 50.1 percent of its property company

Saab has just issued a press release stating that 50.1 percent of the shares in the company Saab Automobile Property AB has been sold to a consortium of Swedish real estate investors, led by Hemfosa Fastigheter AB. This will bring a much needed SEK 255 million or EUR 28 million into Saab. The sale also includes a one year lease free period, and a 15 year leaseback deal.

This means that Saab has raised EUR 41 million the last two days. But if we are to believe Sven-Åke Berglie, who is the CEO of the suppliers association, Saab needs more than EUR 77 million to restart production.

In what is believed to be Saab's short-term funding plan, the European Investment Bank is supposed to lend another SEK 260 million, or EUR 28 million to Saab. But as reported last night, Svenska Dagbladet's sources say that the European Investment Bank is unwilling to lend Saab more money as long as the company is in an "unhealthy" state. The question is if the money raised from the sale of the property can change the EIB's mind.

To TTELA, Eric Geers who is Executive Director of Communication at Saab, said that "there are more things under way, which I can not comment on at this time", when he commented on the short-term funding of Saab.

Click below to read Saab's press release on the sale of the property.

Monday, June 27, 2011

EIB unwilling to loan Saab more money

According to Svenska Dagbladet, the European Investment Bank is not willing to loan Saab more money. The EU rules says that the bank can not loan money to "unhealthy" companies, and with Saab's recent financial difficulties, Saab is considered unhealthy.

We also know from earlier that the CEO of Hemfose, the company who wants to buy half of the company Saab Property, has expressed that a purchase of the property is uncertain if Saab does not secure the other funding. The first part of the funding is secured through the sale of additional cars to China, but the second part, the EIB loan, now seems to be a hard nut to crack.

Svenska Dagbladet also reports that Victor Muller now is back in Trollhättan after visiting GM in Detroit. His visit to Detroit is believed to have been to try to work out a deal with GM as GM is Saab biggest supplier and also has preference shares in Saab.

In other words, Victor Muller still has his hands full of problems that needs to be sorted out.

Saab's new 9-5 wins 'em over

The title is not my creation. It is the words of the Belfast Telegraph. Their test driver has test driven the new Saab 9-5 Sedan for a whole week and has been seduced. Just like we are seduced each and every day.

Here's what Belfast Telegraph's test driver says about the 9-5 after a week:
...having now lived with the car for a full week of mixed motoring, I have to say I have been fully seduced by its qualities. It's a first-rate executive express.
The boldly expressive styling is low-slung and muscular, inspired by the company’s acclaimed Aero X concept car.
There’s a premium feel to the cabin, with very clear deeply recessed main dials, including an aircraft-instrument style speed read-out.
Out on the road, comfort levels are high despite the car’s sporting demeanour.

Another great review for Saab! 

On the other side of the world Aussie CarsGuide has also tested the new 9-5 Sedan. And they also thinks the car is a worthy alternative to the three German competitors:

It's not going to set the world on fire but it is definitely appealing, with its long bonnet and swept back windscreen.
The 9-5 has plenty of cache for the price and is a genuine alternative to mainstream Audi's, Benzes and BMWs.
And one fun observation on CarGuide's test. If you download their picture of the 9-5, the picture title is Saab 9-5 Hero instead of Saab 9-5 Aero!! :)

The Chinese up the stake in becoming part owners of Saab

The last month and a half has shown that Chinese companies are anything but risk averse. They are playing a high-stake game to become part owners of Saab.

Back in 16 May, Chinese PangDa Automobile Trade Co. Ltd agreed to buy 1,300 Saab vehicles at the price of EUR 30 million. This was at a moment when Saab's manufacturing plant in Trollhättan had been idle for one and half month due to debt to suppliers. But despite this, PangDa paid EUR 30 million in advance for cars to be delivered five months later.

Then on 1 June, PangDa decided to increase the order with another 630 cars. This time paying EUR 15 million in advance. This was after PangDa had visted the Trollhättan plant and done a due diligence on Saab.

And finally, earlier today it was known that an unamed Chinese company, which I belive must be a company where both PangDa and Youngman is involved (maybe the planned joint-venture distribution company?), has decided to buy 582 Saab cars for a EUR 13 million advance payment. And this at a time when Saab is more or less insolvent and is balancing on the edge of bankruptcy.

This would mean that so far the Chinese stake in Saab is EUR 58 million. That is EUR 58 million that most likely will be lost if Saab goes bankrupt. In other words, the Chinese really believe in a future for Saab and believe that their planned investments in Saab will be approved by China's National Development and Reform Council (NDRC), which is China's top economic planning body. Why would they else risk several millions Euro?

New Chinese order for Saab cars

Saab has just issued a press release saying that a Chinese company, undisclosed at the moment, has ordered 582 Saab vehicles for the sum of EUR 13 million. The pre-payment of the cars is expected to be received this week.
This means that Saab has secured cash for payment of the June wages.

Eric Geers, Executive Director of Communication at Saab, told that the pre-payment for cars will be received by Saab this week and then the wages will be paid as soon as possible. He hoped the wage payment can be done this week, but he would not guarantee it.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, Gunilla Gustavs, who spokeswoman at Saab, told the Swedish news agency TT Saab is not allowed to disclose who the buyer of the cars is. She would not comment if it is a company Saab has dealt with earlier.

More cash is of course needed to pay the suppliers the 10 percent of the debt that Saab hopes the suppliers will agree on to restart production. The remaining 90 per cent is to be paid in September. And of course next month the wages are due again. reports CEO of the suppliers association, Svenåke Berglie, told TT that SEK 700 - 800 million is needed to restart production. In addition, they will need information about the long-term funding.

In the press release Saab's Chairman and CEO Victor Muller says the following about the latest car sale to China:
"I am pleased to announce this agreement, as it secures part of the necessary short-term funding for Saab Automobile and allows us to pay our employees' wages before the end of this month. The management of Saab Automobile is deeply committed to the company and its employees. I respect the decision of the union members to resign from the board of Saab Automobile. We very much regret the current cash shortage which is causing undeserved hardship to all and we are working relentlessly to resolve the current situation. We hope to secure additional short-term funding, necessary to reach agreement with all of our suppliers to restart production, soon."
He continues stating that Vladimir Antonov still wants to invest in Saab:
"Mr. Vladimir Antonov's interest in participating as an investor/financier in Swedish Automobile remains unwavering, but he is still awaiting a decision on his clearance from parties at interest following the Swedish National Debt Office (NDO) recommendation to clear him over 8 weeks ago. Once clearance has been obtained, Mr. Antonov can provide much needed financing and/or capital to Swedish Automobile/Saab Automobile at this critical time. We are pushing hard to obtain this vital clearance as soon as practically possible."

I interpret the statement on Antonov as Muller trying to increase the pressure on the Swedish Government and the European Investment Bank to approve Antonov. I fully support Victor Muller. Now is the time for the Swedish Government and the EIB to show some responsibility!

Still hope for Saab

TTELA reports that their sources say that there still is hope for Saab. And Håkan Skött from the union IF Metall, agrees.

"I think it will work out, I'm almost convinced. But you can never be one hundred percent sure until it's done. There is no reason to believe that it will not work out," Skött told TTELA.

During the weekend discussions continued on the property sale. Hopefully they have reached an agreement. In addition, money from the European Investment Bank and the Chinese partners PangDa and Youngman is part of the short-term funding plan.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Victor Muller left alone on Saab's Board of Directors

Earlier today we got the report that Kristina Geers, Saab's General Counsel, had resigned from the Board of Directors of Saab Automobile. But she does not seem to be the only one leaving the Board. TTELA now reports that the two union representatives on the Board now also have resigned from the Board.

Håkan Skött, representative from union IF Metalls, tells TTELA that he has resigned from personal reasons.

"For me it's about personal reasons. Given the serious situation which the company is in and the responsibilities and requirements that means, I decided to resign."

In other words, Skött does not seem to be willing to sit on a Board of a company that is more or less insolvent, as being a Board member involves responsibility to, amongst other things, requesting a bankruptcy filing when the company can not pay its bills.

Also Annette Hellgren, representative from Unionen, has left the Board. Now Victor Muller is left alone in the Board.

This does not look good at all! People are jumping ship. A ship full speed ahead towards the ice berg.

NB: Håkan Skött told the Board that he was resigning on Tuesday or Wednesday last week. So his resignation should not be interpreted as a bad sign for Victor Mullers work the last few days work to save Saab.

How Victor Muller will fund Saab in the short-term

Svenska Dagbladet sums up how Victor Muller plans to fund Saab's operations in the short-term until the China deal that will secure the long-term funding is finalized.

1. SEK 300 million in the property deal. Saab wants to sell 51 percent of the company Saab Property AB. The company is currently valued to SEK 600 million, half of this is SEK 300 million.

2. SEK 260 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB). This is part of the EIB loan that Saab was granted when Saab was sold from GM to Spyker Cars (now named Swedish Automobile). Saab requested this money already back in April this year, but for unknown reasons the EIB has not paid out the money yet.

3. SEK 300 million in advance from the Chinese partners PangDa and Youngman. The two Chinese companies plan to invest EUR 245 million in Saab, and the SEK 300 million, approx EUR 33 million, is supposed to be an advance payment.

Svenska Dagbladet also reports that China's National Development and Reform Council (NDRC), which is China's top economic planning body, is positive to Youngman since Youngman filed an application to the NDRC for approval to invest in Saab several months ago. The question is if the NDRC still will allow the deal now that Saab is a company in the brink of bankruptcy.

Union representatives now in power of Saab

Updated/corrected because of uncertainty if the Board can file for bankruptcy without the approval of the shareholders

Swedish Göteborgs-Posten reports that on 23 June Kristina Geers, Saab's General Counsel, resigned from the Board of Directors of Saab Automobile. Remaining on the Board are Victor Muller as Chairman and one representative from the union IF Metall and one from the union Union. In other words, at the moment the unions are in majority of the Board and thus can decide the fate of the company.

As far as I can understand, this puts yesterdays reports that the unions threaten to force Saab into bankruptcy proceeding into another light. When a company is insolvent, the members of the Board should file for a bankruptcy. So not only do the unions threaten to force Saab into bankruptcy, they can also be obliged to file for bankruptcy through their role as Board members.

When Håkan Skött, representative of IF Metall, was asked by Göteborgs-Posten if the unions are in power to govern Saab, he said the following:

"That's how it is. We have that opportunity. There is no difference between a union member of the Board and someone else. If there's an issue for which we vote for or against and Victor are voting the other way, then we are the ones who decide. That's how it is."

 Håkan Skött, IF Metall
Hopefully the unions will not have to vote for bankruptcy. There are still hopes that the property deal can be finalized. Yesterday Jens Engwall who is the CEO of Hemfose, the leading company in the consortium which wants to buy Saab's property, told Göteborgs-Posten that on their part everything was ready to finalize the purchase of Saab's property. The missing pieces are according to Engwall "the European Investment Bank loan and a little money from Pangda and Youngman."

"For me, as a normal real estate person, it is a very complicated deal." he continued, and if Saab was heading for collapse  Engwall said  "we, perhaps, wouldn't buy the property at the current juncture".

Saab 9-5 testing

A couple of Saab 9-5 reviews have turned up this weekend.

Car and Driver reviews the 2011 Saab 9-5 Sedan 2.0T and they seem to like it:
The 9-5’s tailored sheetmetal, approachable price, and roomy cabin provide an attractive way to enter the premium segment.  
British The Independent has test driven the upcoming Saab 9-5 Sportwagon, also known av SportCombi. I assume this is a test drive of a pre-production car. The British press was quite negative to the ride quality of the 9-5 Sedan when it first came out. Now Saab's engineers have worked to improve the suspension so that it will ride better on UK roads. And it looks like they have improved the car. The Independent especially likes the version with the two liter turbo engine and HiPer strut suspension:
That final car had the HiPer strut suspension in Sport specification, a smooth and lusty 220bhp petrol turbo engine, and standard, non-adaptive dampers. This was the one; its steering was crisp, progressive and natural, its ride was supple but controlled. This is how a 9-5 should be, even on 18in wheels, and it shows how good a 9-5 can be. Saab's own engineers like it best, and so do I.
Would it make me buy a 9-5 Sportwagon over an obvious German rival? I do believe it would, not least because it's a refreshing and worthwhile break from the default choices.
Finally a web page called Mother Proof has checked the 9-5 Sedan to see how easy it is to fit child-safety seats in the car. It seems they had to struggle a bit to fit the seats, but in the end it looks like they all was fastened. One thing to note is that they did not have to move the front passenger seat forward to fit the rear-facing child-safety seat.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Two pieces with a personal touch

It's weekend again, and usually the Saab news coming out of Sweden on weekends is limited. Swedes love to take the weekend off. And last night was midsummer celebration, and I guess many Swedes will spend the better part of this day in bed! So instead let's look at a couple of pieces from abroad.

First we have a piece from Torque News. Thanks to Robert for sending me the link. As Robert wrote in the email, it's heartwarming to read it. And I think it's a bit funny too. Here's the last paragraph:

Saab cars are weird, a bit odd, not particularly spectacular in any way other than they are kind of cool. Nobody can really make fun of you for driving a Saab, it's definitely a conversation piece. It has a neat history and a coolness without any negativity that's usually associated with other brands. Saab is like that favorite uncle who gets drunk and says silly things, but everyone still laughs and loves him to death.
Don't die Saab, I'll miss you.

Second piece comes from The Wichita Eagle. It's a good piece that sums up the current situation very well without speculating too much on if, what and when. And they also have a personal touch as they have talked to Ron Fortune of Euro-Tech Saab.
"I think it's more than likely (Muller is) going to get a deal done," Fortune said. "But there's definitely the potential that he wont get a deal done."

Both pieces are a recommended read. Enjoy your weekend! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saab in talks with Chinese partners

Saab is now in talks with its Chinese partners to find a solution to the liquidity squeeze. Swedish Radio has tried to get in touch with Youngman's Chairman Pang Qingjan, but did instead reach his daughter who is also part of Youngman's management. She said that they together with PangDa, is now trying to find a solution to Saab liquidity squeeze. Involved in the talks are also Saab's Chairman Victor Muller.

Eric Geers, Executive Director of Communication at Saab, would not comment on the talks with Youngman.

"I can only say that we work with a lot of scenarios for strengthening the liquidity of Saab. One of them is of course the property sale. But we are also working on other fronts."

However, Geers said that he was hopeful that a solution was coming.
When asked if one could hope for a solution during the coming week, Geers said "hopefully, we try of course to find a solution as fast as possible. The employees did not get paid and that is something we need to fix, so that they are paid as quickly as possible."

He did not rule out a solution during the coming week, saying "No, I do not rule out a solution, it does in any cases look good, but we must wait a bit."

When asked where Victor Muller is at present, Geers said that Muller was in the US yesterday, but he did not know exactly where Muller was at present.

Youngman would not say if Muller was present in China or not.

BAIC's China Saab caught testing

China Car Times reports that the BAIC T60, which is based on the Saab 9-3 technology BAIC bought from Saab back in 2009, has been out testing. And the T60 was caught by the camera!

The BAIC T60 is according to China Car Times expected to start production the second quarter of 2012.

BAIC also writes that the BAIC C70/C80, which is based on the previous generation Saab 9-5, will start production at the end of this year.

Is now the time to buy SWAN shares?

With yesterday's bad news that Saab is unable to pay its employees the wages, the stock price of Saab's parent company, Swedish Automobile (SWAN), plunged. In other words, the market fears that this can be the end for Saab. But do we believe this is the end for Saab? Or do we believe that Victor Muller once again can do some financial magic?

If TTELA is correct and the property deal is more or less done and that the sales transaction could be done in the beginning of next week, Saab will have money to pay the employees and hopefully to restart production if all suppliers agree on the 10 per cent payment now and the remaining 90 per cent in September.

So I say: If you still believe in Saab and Victor Muller, then buy SWAN shares now!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Property deal more or less finalized

Finally some news that gives us some hope!

According to TTELA, the deal to sell and lease-back Saab's property is more or less finalized.   There is only some formalities that need to be sorted out and this will most likely be done during the coming weekend.  Saab should get the money for the sale in the beginning of next week. The money, SEK 300 million is mentioned, should be more than enough to cover wages this month. Wages have been calculated by Dagens Nyheter to be around SEK 100 million.

At the same Swedish Radio reports that Victor Muller's visit to the US includes a meeting with Saab's previous owner, and now owner of preference shares in Saab, General Motors. It is unknown exactly what Muller's business is by meeting GM, but it is clear that General Motors still has a key role as GM needs to approve all new owners in Saab as well as a sale of the property.

Saab, a company for the future

Here is a special treat for you all on a troublesome day like this: A short film about the Saab company anno 1960. The first part of the film covers the aeroplane production. The second part which starts at the 9 minutes mark, is about the car production. And it is a fascinating 8 minutes about Saab anno 1960.

In the embedded film from 1960, we first get a peak inside the engine and transmissions factory in Gothenburg, where they had a capacity of about 30,000 engines and transmissions back in 1959. Each day 100 engines were shipped on one big truck to Trollhättan.

The Trollhättan factory was brand new in 1959. It is located a few miles north of Gothenburg. In Trollhättan they produced about 100 cars each day, or about 30,000 cars each year. But with expansion the production was planned to increase to 60,000 vehicles. This was a production that was important to Sweden as it made Sweden less dependent on import, and it also meant increased export.

Saab was one of few manufacturers which actually built the car bodies themselves. The bodies were made out of extra thick steel for increased safety for the passengers. And believe it or not, the car actually got rust proofing and and was treated with anticorrosive agent!

In Trollhättan in 1960 Saab built the practical seven seater estate Saab 95, the elegant five seater Saab 96 and the exclusive sport model Saab Grand Turismo with higher output and special equipment as standard.

At the end of the film we get to see how they test drive the cars they built. That's what I would call practical quality control!

And yes, it is a man laying on the bonnet of the 96 going through that puddle of water. He is looking through a Plexiglas into the engine compartment to ensure that water doesn't enter!

The movie ends with the following statement: "Saab, a company for the future."  Hear, hear!

Now I want a two stroke Saab 96!!!

The hunt for money is on

According to TTELA, Swedish TV reports that Victor Muller now is in the US on a money hunt. Eric Geers from Saab would not comment on what Victor Muller is doing, but he said that filing for bankruptcy or recontruction of the company is not an option at the time being.

Earlier today Geers told TTELA that they are still working on selling Saab's property to raise money, and this deal is still possible. Sweden's Minister of Enterprise said on a press conference earlier today that the Government is ready to approve a property sale, but first Saab needs to reach a deal with the propsed buyers.

In other words, people are working their ass off to save Saab. If they haven't given up, then why should we? I won't.

Saab not able to pay wages

In a press release issued this morning Swedish Automobile (previously known as Spyker Cars) announced that Saab Automobile is not able to pay wages to the employees. Here's the full press release:

Trollhättan, Sweden: Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swedish Automobile, formerly Spyker Cars N.V.) announces that Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) will be unable to pay the wages to employees as it has not yet obtained the necessary short-term funding. Swedish Automobile and Saab Automobile are in discussions with various parties to obtain short-term funding, including via the sale and lease-back of the real estate of Saab that was announced previously, and with their financiers in connection with current financing arrangements. These discussions are ongoing. There can however be no assurance that these discussions will be successful or that the necessary funding will be obtained.
Saab Automobile has ongoing negotiations with suppliers in reaching agreement on the terms of payments in order to resume an orderly inflow of parts and components.

Swedish Automobile will update the market of any new developments.

The wage stop will first affect 1,400 - 1,500 Saab employees organized in unions which has entered collective agreements with the employer. These employees were to be paid wages before the coming weekend. The remaining employees at Saab are supposed to be paid wages on Monday, but if no short-term funding is secured by then, they will not receive their wages either.

According to Swedish Radio, what happens now is that the union's central organization will send a payment request to Saab. Saab will have seven days to respond. If Saab then can not pay wages, the union will have to make a decision on filing for bankruptcy in Saab or not.

The latest development is a clear sign that Saab is more or less out of cash. If the property sale or any other short-term funding isn't secured within days, then it's most likely over for Saab. But I will ask you to not lose hope just yet. Saab has been written off many times before and still managed to find a solution in the end. So keep the faith that the management of Saab and Swedish Automobile can get Saab out of the latest fix!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Discussions with suppliers ongoing

Yesterday it was reported that Saab was asking its suppliers to agree on a payment term for Saab's debt where the suppliers would get 10 per cent shortly and the remaining with 6 percent interest in September. The suppliers were to respond to the offer yesterday. Today Dagens Industri reports that not all suppliers have approved the payment plan, but some are still discussing the terms with Saab.

 "We are in the midst of negotiations and are working hard on reaching a solution," CEO of Kongsberg Automotive in Mullsjö, Joachim Magnusson, told Dagens Industri.

"My hope is that it is finalized today," he continued.

The Wall Street Journal thinks that the suppliers will agree on the plan. And the reason is simply because it's better to receive 10 percent and maybe the remaining 90 percent in September, than fighting with all other creditors, including the Swedish government who has tied up all of Saab's collateral, and not receiving a single öre.

If Saab can overcome this last challenge, CEO of the association of Swedish Saab dealers, Peter Hallberg, thinks that the long-term outlook is good for Saab. It is the short-term that needs remedy.

"It is the property deal that will determine the outcome," Hallberg said to Dagens Industri.

Gunilla Gustavs from Saab told TTELA that the final piece of the puzzle in the property deal was not in place yet, but she believed that a decision should come soon. 

The money from a property sale in addition to the money received from the Chinese deals so far and the overdue quarterly payment from the European Investment Bank should according to Hallberg be enough to bridge Saab over to October when the investments from Chinese Pang Da and Youngman should be finalized.

"I think the long-term funding looks good," Hallberg said.

And Hallberg is not the only one believing in Saab. Just-auto can report that the big majority of the workforce at Saab have elected to stay despite the uncertainty that surround Saab.

Russian banker Vladimir Antonov does not seem to have lost interest or belief in Saab's future. Today he affirmed once more that he still wants to own up to 30 percent of the company, and that the deal to bring in Chinese companies Pang Da and Youngman as part owners has not changed his mind.

"There are various options to become a shareholder," he told Reuters, "You can buy new shares or old ones. It depends how you invest into the company -- as equity or debt."