Digging into Maud’s claims (for future reference)

First of all, the following is intended to again draw attention to the Swedish government’s lack of commitment to the Swedish automobile industry. I am not necessarily advocating spending the taxpayers’ money, although that would certainly be in everyone’s best interest. I am however reminding people that the government are still dragging their feet when asked to approve Antonov as a major shareholder of Saab. It seems as if the government are pushing EIB to not approve Antonov so the public won’t realize the government are actively trying to bury the automobile industry.

In any case: I find it both interesting as well as annoying the way politicians twist and turn around the issues at hand.

An excellent example is Maud Olofsson’s infamous letter to Mr Antonov.

Two quotes stand out:

As the first country in Europe we launched a special automotive package. In total SEK 28 billion was set aside.

and this:

In most cases these solutions do not include the involvement of the Swedish government, but when they have done so we have been keen to act.

Notice the way she phrases “have been keen to act”. She does not say “we have resolutely acted” or anything that might mean that they have actually done something. She is not telling us a direct lie, but rather neatly sidesteps the question completely.

It is a very irresponsible and dishonest way of conducting government business.

We did not comment on this at the time, because it is very obvious what is being done. I half expected the Swedish press to dig into this, but I guess they have long ago stopped trying to get a straight answer from those in charge.

Let us step back in time to see what has been done (or not). I am sure most here remember Swade’s appeal to the Swedish PM back in November 2009:

Saab, whose future may be decided by owner General Motors Co. next week, has asked the Swedish government to make as much as 5 billion kronor ($717 million) available in emergency loans, and to inform GM of this before a board meeting on Dec. 1.

— As reported by Bloomberg in 2009

That is admittedly a hefty chunk of those 28 billions that Maud brags about. Anyone care to guess what the reply was? That is right: Nej.

28 billions SEK is a good chunk of money. So far, 3 billions have been spent to form the venture capital group Fouriertransform. They in turn have invested 356 million SEK in 11 companies (including a spinoff from Saab Powertrain Europe – Vicura AB).

As far as I can tell, only a little more than one percent of those 28 billions have actually been put to any use. If Fouriertransform picks up the pace, we will be looking at a 10% usage. This is still a far cry away from the number Maud presented.

Swade already explained the reasons why, back in December 2009:

Because any money borrowed has to be paid back within six months. This is the car industry, where you may not see returns on an investment made today for another three years.

— Swade, explaining the basics to the Swedish government

A six month loan is not a sincere offering of help. It is a good slap in the face though.

To sum up: The Swedish government does not want to contribute any money or loans, but they do take an active role in actually running ruining the company. This is in stark contrast to their own policy of not being in the business of making cars.

61 thoughts on “Digging into Maud’s claims (for future reference)”

  1. The only thing i will write here is:

    It’s a shame that Maud or any other person of the Sewdish goverment get’s any attention from me or anybody else and that is because how the complete Swedish goverment has act so far in the case of “our brand”, SAAB!
    Ohw yes, i’m very angry against those people!

    • DUTCH900C,
      If no attention, no one will know of the incompetence towards the Saab situation. I think it’s a shame that we need to be the ones pointing out the incompetence that is so obvious to many, yet the Swedish public doesn’t seem to care because they seem to believe what they have been fed. I’m not saying anything negative about the Swedish people, I think this is more like a being force fed BS from the Government and media thing.

      • OK, 1 extra comment here:

        What i ment with people is the people of the Swedish goverment, as Maud Oloffson and not the Swedish citizen.

  2. the Swedish government has put a lot of effort and engagement into the automotive industry. We have done so because this industry is important for Sweden. During the years it has been a source of jobs and growth. We are many who find pride in Swedish cars.

    So the factory restart will go very smoothly then…

  3. I am totally agree : those facts show to an evidence what the economical strategy of Sweden (since ?) seems to be: the less industry that “eats” capital and gives low profits the better it is.

    Strangely, Germany, the economical european leader, is NOT following these short term views.

    Anyway, the facts are that sw.gouv nearly did nothing to help Saab but, worse, seems to do its best to make things a bit more complicated that they already are… The “paranoiac” question of an “hidden agenda” is still somewhere in my mind… Hope to be totally wrong very soon.

    Anyway, thx Rune.

  4. So a US company bails out on Saab.

    A Dutch, Russian and some Chinese come in to run it.

    I assume that the profits will go to the investors outside of Sweden.

    Now, why should the Swedish government get all concerned with outside parties if the profits are being bled out?

    This is not the Saab of “your fathers”, this is the bastard child of GM isn’t it? I would love to see a new Swedish car emerge, but that would be in a dream?

    Why should they put money or just what should the government do?

    • As the Swedish NDO have said that they have no problem with Antonov as an owner of Saab, then the Swedish government could approve him at once – just as a mark towards the EIB and GM, instead of saying that they have to wait for the EIB and GM to first approve Antonov before they can say ok.

      • That’s what I thought had happened and I was starting to kid myself I must be dreaming – or going insane. Maybe the Swedish government is waiting for ‘a backhander’ before they approve. 😉 One thing is certain, if the ‘you know what’ hits the fan the Swedish government is going to have a fair bit of explaining to do.

        Saab Up!

    • Now, why should the Swedish government get all concerned with outside parties if the profits are being bled out?

      Both Saab the company and its employees pay taxes in Sweden.

      Why should the government spend 18 months figuring out if Antonov should be let onboard or not..? Where is the gain in that? And for whom?

    • Why should they put money or just what should the government do?

      The government should
      * not put in any money
      * should not comment on making other stuff (wind mills…)
      * should not talk of making non selling car modells
      But what they should do, is applause, encourage and talk good of our industry to any investor trying to invest in what they think is a great business!

      THAT is what the citizen should expect and demand of the government, minister of finance and minister of enterprise…

      Since of topic stuff is a big “no-no” I will not tell you all that I washed my car thoroughly today. Geee what a nice ride….;-)

  5. I am not necessarily advocating spending the taxpayers’ money, although that would certainly be in everyone’s best interest.

    I respectfully disagree with this statement. I’m confident that some of Saab’s competitors who pay taxes in Sweden don’t wish to see their hard-earned profits go to support Victor Muller’s efforts. I don’t think they’re gleefully rubbing their hands, hoping that Saab will fail, but I do think they’d rather reinvest their profits in their own company and employees than support a struggling competitor.

    And there are certainly individual Swedes who would rather not see their tax burden increased by having to support Saab…or who would rather see their tax dollars spent somewhere else.

    My 2 cents: the Swedish government should not force any taxpayers to support a company they do not wish to support. BUT, they should get out of the way and let Saab enter into agreements with those who DO wish to support them.

    This is not intended as a personal attack on the poster. If this comment violates the new policy, I apologize and gladly withdraw my comment.

    • Well, if Saab dies, then you’ll have the pleasure of spending your tax money paying for a bunch of people now unable to find jobs. That is hardly tax money well spent, now is it?

      I work in Oslo and live a little bit north of THN. I can’t help but notice how many Swedish people cross the borders into Norway to find jobs there. I doubt this is an avenue open to thousands more.

      As for Saab, they have a strong product portfolio. It is much stronger than it ever has been. If you look at Saab’s numbers, you must realize they were profitable as late as 2007 (the “official” numbers do not include the sale of Saabs in NA, only the production cost, thus skewing the numbers quite a bit!). This was no loss-making company like Maud has told you.

      The government has had 18 months to get out of the way. Since they’re not budging, I think in all fairness that they should pay quite a bit of retribution to Saab. I am sure the taxpayers won’t like that, but they are the ones who voted for these jerks. At the very least they should exempt Saab for taxation in this period.

  6. Rune – you´re perfectly right – SAAB employees and not only them but subcontractors and Trollhättan community as a whole are TAX-payers and hard working people!

    titangray – I suppose you´re not old enough to remember the great “one and only Volvo” that paid no taxes and even had roads built and god-knows-what for tax-payers money in amounts that SAAB never will come close during their golden era in the 70´s is nothing you have in mind?

    Maud – that lady is so screwed. She is soon a forgotten name.
    Her own party friends are abondoning her – just wait and see…

    • North of Atlanta,

      as a retired active duty CoastGuard Man, I must respectfully add to whom must go the credit for that classic line. “Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the Way!” has been attributed to the Marines, as well as to General Patton.

      Both are admirable role models which Ted Turner (or anyone else, for that matter…) do well to emulate.

  7. It is a very irresponsible and dishonest way of conducting government business.

    Does the new Comments Policy extend to remarks like this? I only ask because Maud, believe it or not, is a human being, not doubt with feelings like you & I. She probably feels like giving up when she reads stuff like that. Not saying she (and any politician in general) doesn’t have faults, and that we wouldn’t like her to have done more to help, but… …I seem to recall even VA suggested backing off on the rhetoric some weeks ago! Generally, more gets done by being pleasant and professional with people, even though it can be hard work, than by slagging them off. I think we should be more careful, what do others think?

    • Of course Maud is a person, but this is not critisism towards her persona.. but to the office she represent. Some times I get a whole lot of trash thrown at me because of my job, but that is not towards me as a person but towards me in the role I have with my work. Two different things there.

    • Now, remember, as TimR told us all, this is not a place where “the community controls the contents”. You may think that Rune’s post is not up to the mark, but you may not say so in an open forum. Talking about dissent is evidence of dissent 🙂

      More seriously, Rune’s post is pure OpEd, something that perhaps ought to be better signed on the site in order to distinguish it from “real news”. As an opinion, it is valid for Rune to hold it. It is just as valid to question why VM couldn’t find another investor in the whole world willing to invest in Saab. but then that opinion might be construed as a little bit negative towards Saab and, as such, not what this site is about.

      In fact, you know what, I can’t think of a way to answer this without falling foul of the new rules. Should I just type “+1” or click a “Like” button? To disagree with Rune seems to run contrary to the intention of the new rules. [sigh]

      • Apologies. I shouldn’t have posted at 2am and been quite so cynical.

        Rune’s opinions are interesting. I do maintain that there should probably be a way of making obvious to readers that some posts are ‘Editorial’ or ‘Individual Opinion’ as opposed to ‘News’ however. If every post is (potentially) an opinion piece (as this is), it doesn’t support SU’s contention to be a source of news for people, which would be a shame.

      • As an opinion, it is valid for Rune to hold it. It is just as valid to question why VM couldn’t find another investor in the whole world willing to invest in Saab.

        The biggest problem with your reply is not that you want to debate the topic at hand. The problem is that you are derailing the discussion into discussing the topic of a completely different posting (namely the comments policy).

        As for your opinion concerning VM, it is obvious that not only has VM found a different investor, he has managed to find two (three if you count the one that got away at the last minute)! Youngman and Saab have been in discussions since October. So he was working on a plan “B” for quite some time, despite the madness of the government not letting Antonov invest.

  8. I think TTAero’s comment sums it up quite well. We are not asking for taxpayers money. We are just asking the government to get out of the way as Saab has found private investors who want to invest their own money on Saab. Some are even faithful enough to pay cars they ordered in advance. That says a lot to me. And this is the message that needs to get out to the public.

    • What if the problem is not the Government or EIB but the business plan itself that is not working? Have people ever considered that?

        • Well, no. I’m pretty sure that Swegov put their hopes to Chinagov for this deal to be pulled through.

          If they go out and anounce that EIB is cancelling the loan they will be directly blamed for killing Saab.

          Not a very good move.

  9. Frustration is right now the least what I feel towards the Swedish Government’s handling of SAAB. The manufacturer is being treated as a sick horse that should be put out of its misery. Besides, part of the media is helping, exploiting any “bad news” on front pages doing some kind of brain washing to the public. But this horse is not sick, he wants to have a long life and expand. So please, don’t put a bullet in his head.

    • I think it is as simple as presenting a viable business plan that everyone is comfortable with. If VA could invest what is considered needed there would probably not be a problem.

      This whole conspiracy theory about the government is really getting rediculous. It is fueled Mr. Carlström and his gang and I just can’t understand why VA would like to have this troublemaker as his spokesperson at all.

      • I can 🙂
        I agree, it would be a whole lot easier if someone bought out both GM and EIB and presented a finished plan for investments totally free of any strings.
        But as things stand now, the only reason that is fact is that Antonov was pressured out of the original deal because of some suspicions regarding his persona that have now been dismissed by a couple of investigations

        That means that it would be a political question, and the best way to fight politicians is attacking their credability, which Carlström does.

        If there are other founded economical worries regarding the viability of the businessplan, they can just say so.

          • You may be right.
            We will never know as long as noone puts out the information.
            But by the time he was taken out of the deal there was a “fully funded businessplan”
            If he had been let in earlier, maybe the current crisis would not have happened
            I am pretty sure that VA does not have the money to sustain Saab alone in the current situation, hence the Chinese deals, but I also think that a producing Saab would need less money at the moment..
            For now everything is only speculation,
            One fact that remains is that the collateral taken covers the loans given, so noone is at risk if Saab should go bankrupt on a later date with VA at the helm.
            That leaves politics as the only reason for stalling

  10. I am not necessarily advocating spending the taxpayers’ money, although that would certainly be in everyone’s best interest.

    A very big statement, and possibly true, but this comment was not substantiated whatsoever in the post.

      • OK, I’ll ask it! Can you substantiate your contention that spending taxpayers’ money to assist Saab “would certainly be in everyone’s best interest”?

        • Yes and No.

          I do not own a crystal ball, plus hindsight is 20/20 (and not that useful).

          Germany, France and USA are just some of the countries that do help their automobile industry from time to time. Their helpful meddling does not seem to have hurt.

          Do you think the government made the right decision to not help back in 2009? Why? What good came of that?

          • In 2009 they helped to pull the deal through, they even put 4 billion SEK of the tax payers money at risk though the EIB loan which I think was a mistake.

  11. Sorry this is a bit flashback and its long , but I have to release it….

    To my opinion, with information that has come to surface quite recently, the Swedish government made up their standpoint about Saab two and a half years ago and haven’t changed an inch since then.

    When Maud Olofsson and Jöran Hägglund met the GM bosses in early January 2009 their message was ‘The government will not give any economical support or take over Saab, even if only temporarily’. To my belief I think the GM bosses tried to play hardball like they did with other governments where GM had subsidiarys and they were shocked over the outcome, because they have got governmental support from everywhere else around the globe including the (not so bad) business at Daewoo in South Korea.

    Then the Koenigsegg deal came up. And it also went down due all the buraucracy delay and the Swedish media storm around Saab.

    At the end of 2009 Spyker showed up with Antonov as financial back-up. Swedish media (mainly DI and TT) soon started to spread suspicious rumours about Antonov and the Swedish NDO was forced to make a thorough investigation about Antonov.

    According to a report in the Swedish natioional channel SVT recently where the head of the Swedish NDO was interviewed the first preliminary investigation report on Antonov was negative, claiming he was a suspisious criminal guy. This report was sent to GM according to the head of the Swedish NDO Bo Lundgren.

    On the 17th of December the final report on Antonov came in to the Swedish NDO and it cleared Antonov from all suspicions. However the head of the Swedish NDO Bo Lundgren (who has been a decent guy in the Saab case) ‘does not know’ if the final report was sent to GM.

    Isn\t that a bit weird. He knows the preliminary report was sent, but not if the actual final report was.

    I have strong doubts that the swedish NDO should make this kind of mistakes and if so it would be cause enough for Saab or Antonov to take legal action against the NDO Until proven faulty my guess is someone within the gvt administration stopped this report from reaching GM for some reason.

    You all know what happened on the following day the 18th of december 2009. GM said no to Spyker&Antonov and decided to wind down Saab. When looking back I dont think we should blame GM to hard for that decison with all things in perspective. They had their pressure from the US government. But thanks to the Swedish government ignorance their decision about Saab was based on the wrong facts.

    Well, Spyker and VM found a way to go around all these circumstances, the Saab deal was closed without the real financier Antonov appearent. Though he could have been approved as buyer and part owner already at this point, if the NDO report had been acknowledged. Think about how much momentenum Saab would have gained from that.

    At this time in the lowest of recessions it was impossible to get normal bank financing for any industrial business and especially not for automotive business . I am just saying this as a reminder.

    So, EIB loans was the salvation. Not much details were known about them but they seemed as some kind of support and saviour for the plagued automotive industry.

    Instead in Saabs case they ve shown to be the the mayor cause of probkems, First they are linked to some undefined developments in the environmental fields. It requires lots of application bureaucracy and its also required thar the company to put in the same amount of money as the loan. It requires the government to safeguard the loans. And in Saabs case the government holds all Saab collateral valued to at least 6.5 billion SEK to give their approval to the 4 billion EIB loan. Which in turn have made it impossible for Saab to take regular financial loans. And in addotion to that the interest rate is 10 per cent

    The EIB loan and the way the Swedi$h Govt is holding the collateral is whats been holding Saab up.ever since it was approved.

    Where is the willingness of the Swedish Governent to solve this knot instead of stopping it. how can this loan trap be solved. The questiion is not about giving away money, its about preventing money from being given away for nothing.

    Antonov have spent quite a lot of money on Saab without getting any substance back such as stocks or collatteral. Doesnt that speak for his seriousness. When will the Swedish government resalise..

    To my guess the government stallment of Antonov introduction as investor have costed Saab about 500 to 800 million SEK only in the period since the beginning of April. And I can not even imagine how much pain and money it have costed Saab that he wasnt approved from the 18th of December 2009.

    I dont think that it rhymes with the governments intentions of free enterprise and to not to intervene with the automotive industry

  12. One has to remember that the government works with consensus, i.e. it’s not a one-man show, minister this or that can do whatever they please, they decide all things together within the government; and also, that the power within the government is, for quite obvious reasons, heavily tilted towards the PM and the Minister for Finance, both from the same party, the largest in the coalition. That said, each of the members of the government, any government, is of course responsible for what they say; a very simple rule, I think, should be that if you think that you can’t say anything positive about your country’s industry, knowing that it will become public, then it’s better to be quiet.

    I think the statement “the Swedish government has put a lot of effort and engagement into the automotive industry”, at their site and in letter, is next to pure rubbish. Yes, they have had a few extra meetings. Guess they thought it would be a walk in the park, 9-5 job, leading a country.

  13. Ah! Is it Antonov money or money that Antonov’s bank controls?

    Hell of a question but bankers have been getting rich on OPM (other peoples money), for ages.

    Let’s answer that question. Is it from his personal holdings or money he has committed from his collective groups that the Antanov’s (father and son), have control over.

    The whole US banking and real property collapse started with the “OPM” systems. The mantra is never, never, never, use your own money. Then hide behind an LLC, Ltd, or Inc. banner. Please examine the concept of “piercing the corporate veil” here. What do you think the whole change to “NV” was about. Yes, openness and honesty?

  14. It pains me to see something happening and we common people are at the mercy of the world bankers.

    For that matter, “our” dear Hillary Clinton aspires to be the head of The World Bank, perhaps she and Maud are birds of a feather?

    What is the Euro perception of Hillary and the WB?

  15. The point is very simple: The government should decide and communicate asap if they approve VA as a shareholder or not. The existing and future Chinese owners of SWAN have to know about it in order to be able to take their strategic decisions.

    I am not familiar with Swedish politics and – as an outsider – do not want to comment about that. As far as I understand no money from the government is required, it is just a new shareholder approval. However, there are definitely political aspects involved, which are maybe underestimated among readers here. The Swedish government has taken a committment a year and a half ago by agreeing on the collateral to the EIB loan. That was based on a business plan presented at the time. If they approve VA now, it is a further committment, not financially but politically, and with potential financial claims in a next round. One aspect relates to his personal history, if he is a criminal crook or not. Apparently that has been clarified in his favor without a doubt. Another aspect relates to three things:
    – Is there any form of a credible business plan presented to the government ? The old turned out to be bullshit, so there has to be a new one, which for sure involves a lot more money from shareholders.
    – Show me this money. In size, it has to be a total of 0.5-1bn EUR, not with vague promises, but with hard committments.
    – The leadership issue. Unfortunately, the current leadership is severely discredited, for anybody who deals with business. I recognize the strategic and dealmaking skills (several promising partnerships, Chinese partners) of VM. His skills to run a serious big size organisation on an operational and daily level are definitely insufficient however. Any CEO and chairman of a company with his track record of the last 6 months would be fired without discussion. His role would have to be redefined, and an appropriate corporate conduct and governance scheme as well as organizational structure should be developed and presented. In order to convince the government and other stakeholders that no repetition will occur again.
    The worst the government will fear about that it approves things, and 3-12 months down the road there will be a fuck-up again. Honestly, that is a legitimate fear, given what happened.

    The approach by the govrnment to delay, not talk or talk polite rubbish is inacceptable however. The government should address the issues in the most direct way to SWAN shareholders and give them the chance to show, how they want to change course and tackle the ovious issues.

    What I do not understand, is why the existing shareholders take this painful road through EIB, Swedish government, GM. Why not take 210m EUR, pay back the EIB loan, get rid of all the approval procedures? Later on get a corresponding loan from a consortium of banks based on the freed-up collaterlal. If VA has the money needed this long labyrinth trip could have been avoided. If he would not have that amount in liquid assets, he could have taken a personal loan based on his fortune from his own bank.

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