EIB blocks Antonov from Saab as workers are unpaid
Leaked details of loan deal say businessman cannot take over car maker
The ongoing saga of the ownership of one of Europe's most prestigious brands took some twists last week after it emerged that Saab is unable to pay workers for July and that a major shareholder of its current owner Spyker is blocked from taking it on.
Following a series of leaked reports, the European Investment Bank confirmed last Thursday that its $580 million loan to the Swedish carmaker in 2009 was approved on condition Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov did not take over.
The controversial Antonov, a former shareholder in Saab's new owner Spyker, was forced away from the company after concerns were raised regarding his alleged ties to organised crime. While he was approved as an investor earlier this year by Sweden's National Debt Office, Antonov was apparently unaware that the Saab's EIB deal would stop him from successfully bidding for the company.
It is thought the leak may have been done to inform pro-Antonov Saab suppliers that he would be unable to become a formal shareholder in the company.
"What is being done is not fair. Now is the time for those who say no to Antonov show their hand. Neither the government nor the EIB has been able to say why they don't approve him," said Svenåke Berglie, chair of Fordonskompentgruppen, the trade association representing Scandinavian suppliers to the automotive industry just prior to leak.
Antonov has claimed he may now invest $400 million in gold reserves instead but his spokesman Lars Carlstrom told Swedish media that he is looking for alternative financing to buy Saab.
"We have intensified efforts to find alternative financing solutions and let this process for his approval by the bank and Sweden go, because it's completely meaningless."
Reports in the Swedish press also suggest that Saab and EIB are trying to find a buyer that will take on the debt from the loan and pump money into the business.
“The EIB continues its work to find a solution for Saab which will be accepted by all parties and which was paves the way for new investors in Saab,” said EIB spokersperson Pär Isaksson.
However the longer this search goes on, the less likely Saab will be reprieved. Saab workers are facing a second month without pay and suppliers to the company are beginning legal proceedings that could force it into bankruptcy.
An official in Sweden has confirmed that an application was filed by SwePart Verktyg AB for Saab Automobile Tools AB to be declared bankrupt.
"There is a claim that is not regulated," said Swepart Verktyg chairperson Lars Thunberg. "Many of us are in the same boat. And what can you do when the other party does not get back to you?"