On Spyker’s bid for Saab

OK, time to take a look over Spyker and their interest in Saab…..
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Spyker apparently signalled their interest in Saab to Deutsche Bank last Monday, the day before the GM board meeting. Interest has been confirmed in various news reports on the web over the last 24 hours (but this is the first chance I’ve had to write about them in detail).

AFP: Dutch sports car maker Spyker announced Wednesday it was in talks with General Motors on the possibility of buying Swedish auto maker Saab from the US company……”We are having discussions on this topic with Saab and also with GM since they are the ones selling,” he said.

Many parallels are being drawn with the Koenigsegg bid, not least because the two companies both make highly priced exotic cars.
The other reason they can be compared is because the car company name is basically the pretty face at the front of the bid. Behind the nice looking cars there are other people, too.
Spyker founder and CEO, Victor Muller, seems to have a genuine affection for Saab:

“It’s heartbreaking to see a company like Saab going down — Saab is a beautiful brand,” Spyker Chief Executive Officer Victor Muller said in a telephone interview today from Los Angeles

But Muller and his fast cars are just a small part of a bigger picture:

“All I can say is that we and our main shareholder, Converse Group, are interested in Saab and there are talks at the moment,” Spyker spokesman Niels Molewijk told AFP by telephone.

So who are all these people?


Spyker, the car company, is a modern incarnation of an entity that actually started in the late 1800’s. It started in 1875 doing coachwork and moved on with technology into cars and aeroplanes before going bankrupt in the 1920s.
The modern incarnation started in 2000 and whilst they built 96 cars in 2006, recent times have been harder with 43 cars built last year, which sell at around $300,000 a piece. The cars are hand-built in the Netherlands, though production is about to move to England, a move by which Spyker can downsize its workforce and be closer to its suppliers.
They’ve had their financial troubles over the years and are said to have never turned a profit. In fact, four of the five financial statements pulished between 2004 to 2008 contained qualifying notes expressing some doubt over the company’s ability to continue trading. The 2008 note stated that “the continuity of Spyker Cars N.V. is highly uncertain”. The negative operating cash flow of 19million Euros for the year might have had something to do with that.
Lucky they’ve got some deep pockets behind them, then, with 27million Euros raised from financing activities.
Spyker is a publicly listed company with shares trading on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam (more on that in a minute). The principal shareholders are said to be the Convers Group, with around 30% being held by them under the name of an offshore business in Cyprus (apparently a favourite holiday destination with Russian businessmen 🙂
Founder and CEO, Victor Muller, is said to own 10% of the shares and a significant portion are owned by a group in Abu Dhabi.
But since the spokesman concentrated on the Convers Group, we will too.

Alexander Antonov, who heads Convers Group, is currently on Investbank’s supervisory board, while his son Vladimir is the bank’s deputy CEO. Although Investbank’s web site does not disclose ownership information, Vedomosti reported last year that Vladimir Antonov holds 52.5 percent in the bank, which is Russia’s 84th largest, with assets of 32.6 billion rubles ($1.1 billion).
Vladimir Antonov is also the current chairman of Spyker Cars’ supervisory board, according to the company’s web site.

That all sounds OK, but this is a colorful cast of characters:

Alexander Antonov was shot in March in Moscow but he survived the attack.

Anyone remember the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is attracted to a guy because he got stabbed? It’s one thing to be stab-worthy, but to be shot-worthy is another thing all together. I’m pleased to see he’s alright but I’m not sure that Saabs are fast enough for him to use as a security vehicle.
The Antonovs may already have what they were looking for, because Spyker’s stock price jumped by 20% upon the announcement of their interest in Saab. The Dutch media have a few theories on this (with thanks to Wulf for the translation)

A jump in stock price of 20% in one day? That sounds too good to be true. And maybe it is. Spyker is up to something.
It was definitely on the screens this morning. More than 20% increase in Spyker stock prices. And only because of an idea that is potentially going to cost a lot of money. Spyker is interested in taking over Saab…..
…..So what’s the logic behind this? It appears Spyker may be after the money included with the take-over of Saab. With the Koenigsegg negotiations, the European Investment Bank (EIB) provided a loan of €400 mln to assist a new owner with the turnaround of Saab. The same loan will be provided to other interested parties, according to Joran Hagglund, Swedish minister of Domestic Affairs.
Spyker smells money that can be obtained through a complicated detour. It is something Spyker has done before. They took over the Midland Formula 1 team in 2006 which also appeared to be a risky financial investment. Spyker not only used the money from investor Michel Mol for acquiring the Formula 1 team but also used it for (re)funding its own factory in Zeewolde, The Netherlands. The same thing may happen with €400 mln of European money.

You can read the full translated article over at Saab Central.
To say they’re after the EIB money might be a long bow to draw. That money’s earmarked for green tech investmnet only and Spyker would have to survive scrutiny from the EU and adhere to Saab/Koenigsegg-developed business plan. Or they could start the whole process anew, with a business plan of their own. All that would be a very time-consuming exercise, though.
Here’s another one….
This is theory only, from an automotive analyst, but it’s also worth consideration. Again, it’s a translation by Wulf from a Dutch news service.

Spyker Cars may disappear from the stock exchange with a possible take-over of Saab, according to Jeroen Willard of AEK. According to Willard, interest in Saab is very serious and is supported by a “Russian stock holder” of Spyker. Spyker stock may be used to finance the take-over and would be an interesting opportunity for Spyker to exit the stock exchange.

The advantage of being on the stock exchange is that you can raise new capital fairly easily. The advantage of exiting the stock exchange, of course, is that you don’t have all those pesky public diclosure requirements.

Spyker make some damn fine looking cars and from the scouring I’ve done of the SpykerOwner forum, they seem to have a very loyal and enthusiastic following. The quality of Spyker’s organisation or their vehicles are not at issue here.
The big question is whether or not they’re looking at Saab in order to develop Saab, or whether Convers Group and Spyker are trying to get access to someone else’s funds and possibly offload Saab to someone else later on.
I love their cars and I’m opening to learning more about their bid, but let’s just say I’m not bouyed by what I’ve learned so far.
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Thanks to Margus and Wulf for their assistance

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