Given the present situation, there are a number of problems I’d love to have in their stead.
Some of the comments left on SU the past couple of days are almost ecstatic. Most of you have seen them. Apparently a number of people told us that Antonov was a crook and Saab was better off without him.
First of all: An arrest does not guarantee a conviction in a court case. Antonov remains innocent until proven guilty.
With that out of the way, I am curious about what a worst case scenario would have been. We need to deploy the ‘what if?’-machine and go back in time.
April 2011, the production has been halted and Saab have apparently ran out of money. Saab’s management have been exploring opportunities in China for a few months, but they need a quick cash injection. Riksgälden (National Debt Office) approves Antonov, the Swedish Government do not bother rendering a verdict and EIB shoots down the deal. What if…?
Recently Saab revealed that sales were increasing every month and was progressing according to the business plan. However, the initial delay in ramping up production after GM near-liquidated Saab in January 2010 was more problematic than they could handle.
Had this steady increase in sales been allowed to continue, it is my understanding that Saab would have started seeing some profitability around this point in time.
Antonov’s investment would have kept the wheels rolling for the past seven months or so.
The “oh no, the guy is a crook!” revelation would have been, quite frankly, a luxury problem compared to the ones facing Saab at the moment.
If SweGov were aware of any ill doings on Antonov’s part, then they did two things wrong: 1) Failed to mention anything to Riksgälden (NDO) and 2) They were willing to sink thousands of jobs down the gutter in order to keep him away.
Their actions, to me, are much more serious than the charges Antonov is facing in Lithuania.
Finally, let us say Antonov is convicted a few months from now. What would have happened had he owned shares in Saab? I believe the answer is that the Lithuanian government would have seized his assets and either sold or kept his shares.
Again, for Saab as an organization that produces and sell cars, this would have been a luxury problem to face. A conviction would be bad news for Antonov, but for ‘us’ I do not think it would even register as a ‘blip’ on the radar.
Antonov currently owns a football club. I do not think for a minute that his arrest means they suddenly stop playing football in Portsmouth.
By the way: Riksgälden (NDO) are in close contact with Saab. My understanding is that there are few businesses in Sweden that are as closely watched as Saab has been the last two years.
This discussion also took place in December 2009, as well as in April this year. It is an ongoing discussion, and I continue to be baffled by people’s lack of pragmatism. It was obvious GM sought out a weak buyer. First Koenigsegg and then Spyker. Personally, I was negative towards Spyker. But once GM made their choice, you have to play the cards you are dealt. VM positively surprised many of us by his enthusiasm and energy. That does not necessarily excuse his mistakes, but at least he tried his hardest and for that he deserves some credit. Why didn’t e.g. VW buy Saab? GM did not want that to happen, that is the reason why.
Some have argued in the past that the best way out is bankruptcy: Clear all the debts and start from scratch. In my opinion this failed to take into account GM’s licenses (as well as the rights to use the Saab trademark). Which is exactly what is causing the Chinese buyers so much grief at the moment. A bankruptcy requires a huge leap of faith — one significantly bigger IMO than the one required back in April to accept Antonov. The situation now is much different and I fear we are about to find out just what this particular option brings to the table.
We live in interesting times.