Just when we thought the situation couldn’t get any more complicated, one of Saab’s greatest allies who enabled the sale to Spyker in the first place was arrested and charged with siphoning assets. While he’s of course innocent until proven guilty, his bank will now be liquidated and it’s safe to say his life as a high flying financier is about to change dramatically. The timing, to put it mildly, couldn’t be worse.
So how does this affect the sale of Saab? Fortunately, Latvia’s Financial Services Authority FCMC isn’t going to pursue the money loaned from Antonov to Victor Muller’s company Tenaci over a year ago. In an email to TT reported by di.se, they wrote that it’s not part of their mission to recover funds in a case like this. Whether that means Tenaci is now free of debt to Antonov is dubious, merely that Antonov if found guilty would be on the hook for the money that is missing.
Amazingly, most of the parties don’t seem to be deterred by the news, aside from making sure that the sale isn’t encumbered by any legal challenges by the developing Latvian situation. We’ve heard that even GM isn’t terribly concerned about it, much more about conditions necessary for a transfer of ownership (and who they’re willing to allow to own it). Though negotiations continue in all directions, there are signs coming to us that progress is being made on multiple fronts. All parties understand the urgency given that salaries are past due, and they’re simultaneously trying to protect their own bottom lines while preserving the deal. It’s as if they’re juggling while walking a tight rope. The news that the FCMC isn’t pursuing Tenaci’s debt should help ease at least one possible path to Saab’s rescue, which at this point appears to be the path of least resistance. Whether or not all sides choose that path is anyone’s guess though (edit: sources in the know say the structure of a deal that GM will approve is near).
Much has been made of Pang Da’s statement that they couldn’t meet the salary deadline per the NDRC’s instructions. Many have also speculated on the conditions for the NDRC’s approval of the deal as if it’s diametrically opposed to GM’s. I’d advise you not to overanalyze or fall in any of those traps. It comes down to simple economics for all parties, and GM and the NDRC through Shanghai (state) owned SAIC are tied fairly tightly together, however indirectly they communicate. At the same time, Youngman and Pang Da through Saab’s technology have a long term potential to build and sell Chinese made cars that anyone could recognize. There are ways that have been communicated to us for all parties to come out with their interests protected, and for the NDRC to ensure that their strategic plan for Chinese industrial growth stays on track. There’s no point in trying to figure out what those conditions are, it’s simply worth noting that discussions aren’t as black and white as some press outlets suggest.
Also, you’ll remember Antonov still owns half of CPP (the other half being co-owned by Brendan O’Toole) and they most recently acquired the Bowler brand. Also, they produce the bodies for the new Spyker Ailerons and even limited edition Aston Martins, among other exotics. Whether or not Antonov wishes to remain the owner of this is now in question, and we’ve heard rumblings that he may want to unload it. Hopefully there won’t be any disruption on that end either.
On a side note, I haven’t posted much lately because the constant speculation in the media and grasping for straws has been pretty exhausting. You can cut the tension in SU’s comments with a knife, and the anxiety level that’s been exhibited by some readers here seems to be contagious. I’m hoping we can all keep calm, and trust that those negotiating for Saab’s survival understand that given the time, shareholder, and negotiating constraints, there are very few paths left to take. I’m confident from what I’ve heard that they all know this, and that means that finally there should be some progress on reaching an acceptable deal.
Guessing at outcomes, speculating blindly, or just venting anger or frustration isn’t going to solve anything. Comments at this point do little but stir the pot, and I’d ask everyone to think twice before posting their opinion. I considered closing comments for this article, but I have faith that we can all stay constructive with our tone. The purpose of us reporting about the negotiation is only to keep everyone in the loop, not to debate the finer points of a deal that isn’t even public. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the website policy, follow Tim’s advice and look it over. It’ll take less than a minute of your time to read.