Saab Future in Question After Shutdown

Reuters

Saab faced an extended shutdown on Wednesday following non-payment of suppliers' bills, fueling concerns the Swedish carmaker's survival was at risk.

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As production lines remained idle for a second day, Dutch owner Spyker said the stoppage could last a number of days and workers were sent home for the rest of the week.

Spyker, which halted production for three days last week after failing to pay some invoices for parts, has said it does not face collapse.

"We are working hard to resolve the things holding up the situation of course. We are trying to reach a resolution with the suppliers," Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs said on Wednesday.
Asked if the stoppage could last a number of days, Gustav said: "I think it could."

A union official said workers at Saab's Trollhattan plant in western Sweden had been given the rest of the working week off as the company sought to resolve supplier issues.

"That is the case," said Annette Hellgren, representative for the Unionen union at Saab, adding there was no word on resuming production next week.

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Saab officials were not immediately available to comment.

Spyker, which bought Saab from General Motors last year, has said the carmaker has had a liquidity squeeze but called it a short-term glitch.

ANTONOV WANTS IN

The company is seeking to boost its finances by getting a former shareholder, Russian Vladimir Antonov, back on board.

Lars Carlstrom, Antonov's representative in Sweden, said Saab's cashflow problems had been exaggerated by the media.

"It is not an alarming situation. It is not something that would cause major damage to Saab," he said. "If Mr Antonov is allowed back in, there is no problem for Saab's short-term funding."
In his latest Tweet, Antonov wrote: "just!!!!! let me in! :)." 

Antonov, who owns banks in Lithuania and Latvia, has applied to the Swedish Debt Office to take a stake in Spyker, expected to be in line with the 29.9 percent holding he used to have in the Dutch company.

He had to sell the stake, at GM's insistence, before Spyker could buy Saab. In February, Antonov bought Spyker's loss-making luxury car business.

The Debt Office said at the end of March it would take weeks before a decision was made.

Saab's room for manoeuvre has also been crimped by the terms of Spyker's 400 million euro loan from the European Investment Bank. Carlstrom said replacing this loan with money from banks was some time off.

"We are, as we see it, 6-10 months away before we can actualise this," he said.

(Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson; Editing by David Cowell)

((mia.shanley@thomsonreuters.com; +46-8-700 1004))

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