Saab a step closer to cash as Sweden approves Russian owner

28th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Sweden's National Debt Office on Thursday approved a new investor in struggling carmaker Saab, providing a glimmer of hope the iconic brand will manage to scrape together enough cash to relaunch production.

"The National Debt Office (NDO) has not found any reason to deny an application from Saab and (its Dutch owner) Spyker for Vladimir Antonov to become a shareholder," the government agency said in a statement.

Antonov is a former Spyker shareholder, who was blocked from taking a stake in Saab when the Dutch company saved it from bankruptcy in January 2010 by buying it from GM owning to concerns over his business dealings and rumours of ties to organised crime.

"There have been a lot of rumours going around that have lead to us conducting this probe. But we have not found anything to indicate that he is not a suitable owner," NDO chief Bo Lundgren told reporters.

"When you talk to him, it is obvious that he is genuinely interested in Saab," he added.

Antonov himself said: "I am very happy finally getting the recommendation from the NDO... The past months of speculations around me, as an individual investor and my businesses has been exhausting."

"Finally we have managed to obtain a clean bill of health and we need to move fast forward to secure the cash flow of Saab Automobile," he said in a statement issued by Spyker.

The NDO announcement came just over three weeks after Saab announced it would be shutting production "until further notice," amid conflicts with suppliers over unpaid bills.

The NDO, which has a say in Saab's ownership since it has guaranteed a 400-million-euro ($580-million) European Investment Bank loan to the company, said it had received a request on March 29 from Saab and Spyker for Antonov to be allowed in.

He would pay up to 30 million euros for a maximum of 29.9 percent of voting rights, the NDO statement said.

It could take a while however before the Swedish carmaker sees any of that cash, since the Swedish government, the EIB and Saab's previous owner and current shareholder GM still need to back the ownership change.

© 2011 AFP

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