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Another White Knight Appears for Saab

Third Chinese company offers $18 million to cash-starved Swedes.

by on Jun.27, 2011

Saab lines up a deal to sell nearly 600 vehicles, raising $18 million in desperately needed cash.

It’s getting hard to tell the players without a scorecard, especially as Saab continues to spread its net hoping to come up with cash that can keep the financially struggling company afloat.

Less than a week after admitting it doesn’t have the resources to make payroll, the Swedish maker has announced yet another Chinese company has offered to lend it a hand, this time agreeing to pay $18.4 million in cash for 582 unsold Saab cars.  Meanwhile, efforts continue to win the approval of regulators in Europe and China needed to ensure that several other proposed deals can be completed, giving Saab enough cash to get it beyond the current crisis.

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“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,” Chief Executive Victor Muller said in a statement.

But it remains to be seen whether the latest bailout will be enough to get Saab back into production again, observers caution.

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Saab Resumes Production

Deal with Pang Da moves forward.

by on May.27, 2011

Saab 9-5s rolling off the Trollhattan line.

For the first time since April 4, cars are rolling off the Saab assembly line in Trollhattan, Sweden, marking a turning point in a financial crisis that came close to crushing the struggling maker.

Operations at the maker’s headquarters plant came to a halt when suppliers launched a boycott over unpaid bills.  With sales running short of expectations, the maker was forced to seek additional sources of short-term funding, but several initial proposals – including a deal with Chinese automaker Hawtai — fell through, raising questions about Saab’s viability.

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But, earlier this month, the Swedish maker lined up an alternate deal with the major Chinese dealership chain, Pang Da.  The preliminary agreement is moving ahead and Saab was able to reach an agreement with its vendors to once again begin stocking its Trollhattan plant.

“This is a great day for our company and it is great to see the plant running again. We have gone through a rough patch in recent weeks, but Saab is back in action again,” said Victor Muller, chairman of Saab and the head of the Dutch-based company that acquired the Swedish firm from General Motors in February 2010.

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Chinese Deal Saves Cash-Starved Saab

Production set to resume, Swedish maker eying range of new product offerings.

by on May.03, 2011

Production of the Saab 9-5 will resume in Sweden and could soon begin in China, as well.

Swedish automaker Saab has found its white knight – or more accurately several of them – securing at least its near-term survival.

The maker has lined up a new alliance with ambitious Chinese manufacturer Hawtai Automotive Group, while also securing some much-needed cash in the form of a loan from the Gemini Investment Fund. Meanwhile, Saab officials say they anticipate a further investment will follow from Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov.

The impact of the various deals will be significant for cash-starved Saab, both in the short and long-term.  The initial financial infusion – 180 million Euros, or $266 million – should permit Saab to quickly re-open the headquarters assembly plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, that was shuttered on March 29th due to a boycott by unpaid suppliers.

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The alliance will also provide a manufacturing base for Saab in China, which the company hopes will significantly expand its presence in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive market.

Longer-term, Saab Chairman Victor Muller told TheDetroitBureau.com, Saab may now be able to fund the development of some much-desired new product programs, including a small luxury car tentatively named the 9-2, and possibly a large SUV, among other vehicle options.

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Saab Anxiously Awaiting Rescue Plan Approval

Muller expects answer next week – but delay could “unravel” things for Swedish maker.

by on Apr.22, 2011

Saab executives, including Chairman Victor Muller (c), and design chief Jason Castriota (r), at the NY Auto Show.

Nearly three weeks after a supplier boycott forced Saab to halt operations at its headquarters assembly plant, the maker is anxiously waiting for formal approval of its rescue plan – and fretting that a long delay could cause its operations to “unravel.”

The shutdown has cost the maker significant lost production even as it aims to build up global inventory.  But Saab Chairman Victor Muller told TheDetroitBureau.com in an exclusive interview that he believes the Swedish maker could recover those losses in a matter of months – if and when it gets the go-ahead for a plan that would pump millions of Euros into its cash coffers.

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“Well, I’m still hoping” to get an answer within the next few days, said Muller, admitting, “I don’t know” why a proposed rescue plan has not gotten the necessary approval from the European Investment Bank.

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Saab Readying to Re-Start Production

Russian bailout may not solve all problems for Swedish maker.

by on Apr.18, 2011

The Saab assembly plant, in Trollhattan, has been shut down for two weeks due to a supplier boycott.

With new funding coming and reluctant suppliers now beginning to ship parts again, Saab’s headquarters plant could be up and running in a matter of days, according to company and industry sources.

Operations at the maker’s Trollhattan, Sweden factory ground to a halt, two weeks ago, when parts makers staged a boycott demanding Saab follow up on unpaid bills.  Despite company claims that there was still more than $200 million in the bank, the move set off a frantic search for more capital.  Russian banker Vladimir Antonov then offered to assist by buying up Saab’s assets and leasing them back to the troubled maker.

On Friday, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson announced the government had decided “to conclude an agreement with Saab” that would help it get past a cash crunch triggered by slow sales last year.

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The deal would allow the asset sale to Antonov, who controls a number of banks in the former Soviet block, including Bankas Snoras, in Lithuania.  Antonov was a one-time partner of Saab Chairman Victor Muller who purchased the Swedish carmaker from General Motors in early 2010.  Muller, a Dutch entrepreneur, got into the automotive business, a decade ago, by founding a low-volume sports car company, Spyker.  But Antonov was forced out because GM declined to do business with the Russian.

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Lease-Back Plan Could Be Saab’s Salvation

Swedish government must approve Russian bailout deal.

by on Apr.11, 2011

Saab's first-ever crossover, the 9-4X.

A complex deal that would sell Saab assets to a Russian businessman then lease them back to the Swedish company could help save the cash-strapped automaker.

Saab Automobile has been frantically searching for new sources of revenue in recent days as it has burned through much of the funds it raised through a loan from the European Investment Bank, or EIB, last year.  The carmaker’s main assembly plant, in Trollhattan, has been shuttered several times because suppliers have refused to deliver much needed parts citing millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

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The white knight is Vladimir Antonov, a one-time investor in Spyker Cars, the Dutch-based company that purchased Saab from General Motors in early 2010.  Antonov would provide a financial lifeline by purchasing key assets and then leasing them back to Saab.  The deal must still be authorized by the Swedish government, which backed Saab’s loan from the EIB.

Antonov was forced out of Spyker by GM, in late 2009.  The U.S. maker refused to negotiate with the Dutch company while the oligarch was one of its investors.  But Antonov stepped back in, earlier this year, when Spyker sold him its Dutch-based sports car operations.

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Saab Shutdown Drags On, Threaten Brand’s Survival

Suppliers claim Swedish maker owes millions.

by on Apr.08, 2011

The Saab 9-5 Aero at the maker's plant in Trollhattan, which has been idled by suppliers demanding payment.

The shutdown of Saab’s main assembly plant, at its Trollhattan, Sweden headquarters, could drag on for some time as the maker struggles to raise additional cash to help cover what parts suppliers claim are millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

The maker’s parent, Dutch-based Spyker Cars, nonetheless insists that Saab is not nearing a collapse.  The maker only emerged for near-insolvency a year ago, after Spyker purchased the failing brand and its assets from General Motors.

A spokesperson for the automaker, based several hours from capital city Stockholm, said Saab officials are “working hard” to find a solution, but also warned “could” stretch on for several days.

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Following the Geneva Motor Show, in March, Saab Chairman Victor Muller stated the company still has about $200 million of the money left from a 2010 European Investment Bank loan.  But he also said Spyker would be seeking to raise additional capital as quickly as possible.

Saab was hit with a brief production halt last week when suppliers temporarily halted deliveries.  Saab appeared to have addressed that problem, but the confrontation resumed this week, and the latest production halt is now in its fourth day.

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Saab Slammed By 2nd Supplier-led shutdown

by on Apr.06, 2011

A Saab 9-5 on the Trollhattan assembly line.

A “minor glitch” has led to the second shutdown of Saab’s headquarters plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, in barely a week – suppliers refusing to provide critical parts because, they claim, they haven’t been paid.

Though Saab officials insists they have enough ongoing money to keep going through at least 2012, the latest crisis raises new concerns about the future of the struggling carmaker – which was purchased from General Motors in early 2010.

“We are trying to reach a solution with the suppliers,” asserted Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs, industry sources fear the situation is only growing worse.

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Saab’s Trollhattan plant was briefly shuttered last week but it initially appeared the maker was able to resolve what Chairman Victor Muller described as a “minor glitch” and make the necessary payments.

Though Muller last month told TheDetroitBureau.com Saab had more than $200 million remaining from the loan provided by the European Investment Bank, he also indicated the Swedish company was looking for new investors.  That was one reason why parent Spyker Cars sold off its Dutch-based sports car manufacturing operations.

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Saab Re-Starts Plant After Unpaid Suppliers Temporarily Halt Deliveries

Shutdown hints at other challenges facing Swedish maker.

by on Mar.30, 2011

Production of the Saab 9-5 was temporarily halted over unpaid parts bills.

Saab assembly operations in Trollhattan, Sweden got back to normal – more or less – this morning, following a day long shutdown triggered by suppliers who refused to deliver parts pending payment of outstanding bills.

Company officials insist they are working to “resolve these issues,” but there is no question the Swedish maker is struggling in its attempt to rebuild itself after nearly shutting down permanently last year.

Operations at the facility, which produces Saab’s flagship 9-5 sedan, ground to a halt, yesterday, when a number of suppliers refused to deliver more parts until they were paid.  It’s unclear precisely what arrangements were made to get those vendors to restock the plant and let it reopen this morning.

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But a statement from Saab says it “expects to resolve these issues in the short-term.”

The brief shutdown is the latest twist in an ongoing saga of a company that has long struggled for survival.  Going into its 2009 bankruptcy, former owner General Motors Corp. announced plans to sell or close Saab – while eventually also shutting down its Saturn, Hummer and Pontiac brands.  Initially, with no buyer coming through with the necessary deal, GM began shutting Saab down.

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Spyker ShareTrading Halted on Saab Speculation

Negotiations with GM continue after previous failed offer.

by on Jan.26, 2010

It's not over?

Trading in shares of Spyker stock was stopped in Amsterdam, Netherlands, this afternoon as speculators continued to bid up the price of the tiny sports car maker for the ultra rich. Yesterday, Spyker shares increased by more than 75% on rumors that it was close to buying Saab from General Motors.

Several thousand jobs are dependent on the outcome, including 3400 Saab employees, not counting 1100 dealers, numerous suppliers and their employees.

Saab’s annual global sales of fewer than 90,000 vehicles make it an unlikely survivor in the Global car wars. Previously General Motors Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre has expressed cynicism about what he characterized as a “show me the money” stance toward potential Saab suitors.

Saab itself filed for reorganization under Swedish Law on 20 February 2009, after GM said no more funding would be provided for the loss-making operation. As part of the plan, Saab said its design, engineering and manufacturing would be consolidated in Sweden.

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