If cats truly do have nine lives, then it’s clear to me that Swedish automaker Saab is a cat. Since April of this year, they’ve faced production stoppages caused by unpaid suppliers cutting off deliveries, they’ve had investment deal after investment deal fall through and just last week announced that they didn’t have the cash to meet payroll. I was ready to pronounce them dead, but at the last minute a (new) Chinese savior stepped in with $18.2 million in cash and an order for 582 Saab vehicles. That’s enough to pay their workers, pay (some of) their suppliers and keep the lights on in Trollhatten, at least for now.
If you’re keeping score at home, this order (from an unnamed Chinese distributor) is the third injection of Chinese cash sine April. In mid-June, Chinese automaker Zhejian Youngman Lotus Automobile agreed to buy a 29 percent stake in Saab’s parent, Swedish Automobile (formerly Spyker). That deal is worth $195 million, but only if the Chinese government gives it a green light. That’s not likely to happen, since the Chinese want less automakers in-country, not more. The Chinese government had previously shot down a deal between Saab and Hawtai for that very reason.
That still leaves the cash given to Saab by Pang Da, a Chinese auto distributor who wants to begin building cars. Pang Da’s original purchase order for Saab automobiles saved the company back in May, but further investment in Saab requires, you guessed it, Chinese government approval.
There’s one more in the potential-Saab-investor-cast-of-characters, and that’s Russian billionaire Vladimir Antonov. Antonov, a former investor in Saab, allegedly had ties to Russian organized crime, a charge he flatly denies. The European Investment Bank, who holds a significant amount of paper on Saab, refuses to approve Antonov, even though the Swedish National Debt Office recommended approval back in April. Antonov has the cash to bail Saab out, and a partnership between a Russian investor with a shady past and the Chinese government would make for some interesting board of director meetings.
Stay tuned, because this soap opera isn’t over just yet.
Source: Motor Authority