The good Saab news from the Olofsson/Hagglund tour of Trollhattan

Maud Olofsson visited Trollhattan yesterday and it seems there’s a number of things to be pleased about as a result of that visit.

The Saab Czar

Firstly, there’s the unofficial appointment of Joran Hagglund as the officer within the Enterprise (Industry) ministry who’ll be spending just about all of his time as the government liaison in the Saab affair. Hagglund has been one of the main players in this already, being the government representative flown to Detroit earlier this month for GM’s board meeting.

This appointment clears his schedule of non-Saaby things, but otherwise acknowledges most of what he’s been doing to a fair while now anyway.

$85 million = more (electric) POWAH!!!!!

The Swedish government will inject singnificant cash into a project to further develop work being done by ElectroEngine, Innovatum and Saab.

The ElectroEngine Saab 9-3 convertible, running on electricity only, was shown to various agencies earlier this year and really does look to be some very promising technology. You can read more about the electric Saab here.

Shiny happy Swedish people

But perhaps the best news is the new spirit of motivation and co-operation that’s arisen from the meetings. There’s an article in the Goteborrg Posten that spells out some of the new developments. Hagglund’s new designation is part of this, but possible concessions on finance and some productive talks with the unions at Saab makes for some potentially brighter times ahead.

Börjesson provided a translation of the GP.se article for us, which I’ve reproduced here (thanks again, B!!)

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The government may soften Saab’s loan conditions

– We’ll do whatever we can to bring about a sale of Saab, Maud Olofsson assures.

There is a possibility that the government may soften the conditions for a rescue loan.
But that presupposes that there is a prospective Saab buyer who asks.

– These are really tough times, and I understand that there is great concern. But today I’ve met with an incredible drive and will, and I think that could prove decisive for if this will succeed. We in the government are doing the best we can to bring about a sale of Saab.

So said Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson yesterday in Trollhättan after having met the management of Saab Automobile, IF Metall [a union], Unionen [another union], Sveriges Ingenjörer [yet another union], municipal leaders and the government coordinators.

No detailed information was given on how the sales process is doing. According to various sources, there are a number of serious bidders. At the same time, the government has given GM a clear message.

– What’s important is that GM hurries up to choose one of the bidders for final negotiations, so we can help in the process. GM can’t expect us and the EU to manage to analyse different bidders, said Jöran Hägglund.

He assumes that all the important negotiation work must be completed by the 30th of December, when the GM board are expected to make a decision about Saab’s future.

Jöran Hägglund says that no prospective Saab buyer has so far asked for a share of the government’s emergency loan, which is to help vehicle companies in urgent crisis. Five billion [SEK] have been set aside for emergency loans.

One reason that no one has asked for that kind of support, but only for loans from the European Investment Bank, may be the harshly critized requirement that the emergency loans be repaid within six months.

At several of yesterday’s meetings, demands were made for a change in the conditions of the emergency loans. The City of Trollhättan said that the government should grant Saab an emergency loan with “realistic conditions”. The government coordinators suggested possibilities for “a more active use of the resources set aside for the emergency loans”.

The government didn’t want to speak openly about the possibilities of a change in the conditions, especially since no bidder had made any such request.
But most of those involved interpreted the government’s reasoning about the emergency loans as if there is a possibility that the conditions can be changed if the need arises.

The unions stated that the loan conditions should be changed, since it isn’t possible to change Saab’s losses into profits overnight.
Saab’s business plan is based on a production of 60-65 000 cars next year. Towards the end of 2010, the yearly pace may increase to about 80 000 cars, but it’s only in 2011-2012 that Saab are expected to turn a profit. If the plan is followed, there will be a need for recruiting additional workers in about a year.

The union trio that met Maud Olofsson yesterday all had positive things to say after the meeting.
– The government’s change of attitude, the will to help, is the most positive outcome. All are now pulling in the same direction, said Paul Åkerlund, chairman of IF Metall.

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