Thursday Snippets – Lost edition

I really don’t know where to begin today.
So many opinions, so many headlines. Most of them have been covered in comments already, but I suppose my task is to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Armchair quaterbacks
There’s a bucketload of these going around at the moment. Automotive ‘analysts’ who most likely don’t even think about Saab until a journo rings them up and asks for an opinion. Most of them will be quite dismissive and give a summary comment like “GM will shut down Saab. It’s just not worth them thinking about”.
I’m happy to be as dismissive of them as they are of Saab.
It may well turn out that Saab does not survive this episode. That can happen. But having followed this story for almost a full year now, I know from various contacts inside and outside of Saab that work is going on in the background at a furious pace. They are not lying down.
If Saab is closed, it won’t be because of a lack of work in Sweden and won’t be because there’s no potential there to build something.
Problem Mathematics
I still can’t get the collapse of the Koenigsegg deal to add up.
fabela.JPG Fabela says it was a complicated deal involving a lot of parties and they weren’t able to get all the parties moving at a quick enough pace. See the interview here.
But the money was just days away. This has been confirmed by Joran Hagglund and the Swedish Debt Office. They would have been up and running an just a few weeks.
Were their margins for time so incredibly fine tuned that 10-14 days is the killer difference?
He says they no longer believed that the business plan they’d developed could be delivered because of the delays. Again, this is the business plan that was reviewed by so many different bodies and approved, yet it was not robust enough to last a few more weeks?
I just doesn’t add up.
And in the next sentence he says the plan was strong and viable.
The money was just a few weeks away. So a strong and viable plan should have been able to be implemented. Didn’t this strong and viable plan go up to December 31st, the date GM had set for Saab?
I just does. not. add. up.
There must have been something else at play here. There is an unseen hand at work with one of these players that has folded this thing up. There’s no other explanation.
A gutsy appearance
CvKfactory.jpg You’ve got to tip your hat to CvK and Eker for visiting the Saab factory today to try and give some account of what went wrong. By all accounts they were shown some support by the people there, which is the right thing.
Things have gone wrong here, but CvK & co have had a genuine crack at this. The bigger fault here may lie with GM and Deutsche for selecting them in the first place. But I digress…..
CvK said to TTELA that “It was important to come here and tell us more about why we pulled ourselves out” but from the Googletrans that I can see, there doesn’t seem to be too much more of an explanation that we’d already heard.
It’s a Maud, Maud world
If there’s one thing that’s really annoying in all this, its the point scoring exercise going on between politicians in the Swedish media.
Thankfully, in between volleys, Maud Olofsson did have a few things that were notable and sensible to say:

  • A new buyer coming in is going to have to be able to get the deal tied up quickly. They will need to be well backed and well resourced.
  • The government will work with whoever it is to do what they can to get things done, but they won’t take a stake in the company (which we all know)
  • The EIB loan process that’s been undertaken so far was tied to Koenigsegg’s plan. Any new potential owner requiring and EIB loan would have to start the process over again.

That last one’s in bold because it’s pretty important.
A final clip, from Automotive News:

A Swedish government official said today that General Motors Co. appeared to still have hopes of being able to sell its Saab unit after the wheels came off of a planned divestment this week. “I talked to GM last night and my impression is that they have not given up hope,” Joran Hagglund, state secretary at Sweden’s Industry Ministry, told reporters.

And for those of you thinking that GM might still retain Saab, you’d best bear in mind the news from Germany:

General Motors Co. expects to cut around 9,000 jobs at Adam Opel GmbH, or nearly 20 percent of the ailing German carmaker’s work force, as part of a $5 billion restructuring, a top executive said Wednesday.
Nick Reilly, the head of GM’s international operations and interim CEO of Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall, outlined the planned cuts, which were slightly fewer than anticipated, but said no decisions had been reached regarding plant closures.

Cutting 9,000 jobs in Germany and then finding a viable excuse to keep 4,000 in Sweden?
Good luck selling that one to the German government just before asking for aid.
Saab need to be sold. It’s the only viable way to survive.

Back home and Saab news snippets

I love travelling to Sweden, but I don’t have the words to describe how much I hate getting there and getting home.

Hats off to Singapore Airlines, though. I flew with four different airlines on my trip home (SAS, Lufthansa, Singapore and Virgin Blue) and Singapore are by far the best airline I’ve ever flown with. That’s not a long list, by the way, as I’m not a frequent traveller. But it’s Singapore first with clear blue-sky daylight between them and anyone else.

The wife and dog both recognised me when I got home, so that’s a good start…..


My second task now that I’m back home is to sell my Mazda MX-5. A guys is flying down from New South Wales on Saturday morning to look at it and I had several local enquiries via email while I was away, so it’s looking positive.

Hopefully I can start the 99 Turbo project pretty soon!


My first task now that I’m back home is to catch up on some of the Saab news going around. I was so busy in Germany and Sweden that I didn’t check my RSS Reader even once.

Hence, there’s plenty to cover…….


ctm has emailed me the news circulating in Sweden, stating that Augie Fabela has finally done what I figured he must do: taken up a significant stake in Saab. This was reported a little while ago, with the revelation earlier this month of the Solsken company taking a 42% interest in Saab.

Solsken is a company registered in Holland and owned by Fabela.

Back on September 5th we had the following ownership structure:

  • ‘Solsken’ – 42%
  • Alpraaz – 24%
  • Eker Group – 24%
  • Koenigsegg Auto – 10%

It appeared therefore that Fabela had bought out Mark Bishop and some shares from other owners.

The other thing of interest is the minority stake now owned by Beijing Automotive. Auto Motor and Sport have reported that stake to be 20% of the Koenigsegg Group, but I’m left wondering if that’s come about by way of purchasing ownership from existing owners, or whether they’ve injected capital and own 20% of the new entity?

That would be a much more desireable scenario to me.


I had a brief chat with Magnus Nordberg in Frankfurt. The name may not be familiar to all of you but his work should be.

Magnus is the business writer for the TTELA newspaper, which covers Trollhattan and surrounding areas, so he’s been plugged in to everything that’s been going on at Saab. I’ve got nothing but admiration for this quiet Swede, who seems to just go about his business and produce great reports on the Saab affair that are well balanced and full of access and insight.

Some of his more recent work:

Saab to win back customers – An interview piece with Saab’s chief marketing man, Knut Simonsson.

Simonsson sees Saab’s current situation with good doses of humor (the phrase all publicity is good publicity has been stretched too far with Saab) and realism. He believes there’s a lot of pent up demand for Saab’s new product, with people waiting anxiously on the sidelines for greater reassurance in the wake of the headlines written by much of the Swedish media.

Could be the perfect compromise
– an editorial on the pressure facing Saab in the coming weeks (with regard to EIB loans, etc) and the recent potential addition of BAIC to Koenigsegg Group’s ownership register.

The automotive industry today is torn between a fear of falling into Chinese hands, and on the other hand, a desire to find an easy way to enter the huge Chinese market. When, as in Saab’s case, they get a Chinese owner of minority interests, it may be the perfect compromise.


and finally…… it seems the head of Beijing Automotive was in Trollhattan at the same time I was!! I don’t know what he was doing that night, but he certainly wasn’t bowling!

Employees from China Beijing Auto has been at Saab in Trollhattan in once a week. On Thursday the CEO was there. The purpose: See if there is technology to buy the company’s manufacturing operations in China.

– They are so far very pleased with what they’ve seen, “says Kjell ac Bergstrom, CEO of Saab’s subsidiary Powertrain Sweden, to TT.

…… The company has promised a minority stake in Koenigsegg Group, but to get the letter of intent to mature into a definitive agreement with spices Koenigsegg Saab Technologies.

– BAIC is prepared to invest what is needed, but want to get something in return. They have not gone into this just because it’s fun to support Trollhättan, “says Kjell ac Bergström.

……- In order to be able to develop its own brand, the access rights from a manufacturer like Saab, who can sell the licenses, “says Kjell ac Bergström.

GM and Saab are still negotiating about the technology owns Saab. It’s just that the Chinese will see. In addition, Saab has taken a lot of precautions.

– They may not take any photos, do not bring any copies, “says Kjell ac Bergström.

He is, like, the management of Saab and Koenigsegg Group, warmly welcomes the BAIC.

– The company feels very stable, with a leadership that has experience in Western car companies, “he says.

Auto Motor and Sport interview Christian von Koenigsegg

I know you US folks had a long weekend last weekend and so some may have missed this summary of a great interview with Christian von Koenigsegg. Here it is again

Auto Motor and Sport magazine in Sweden have conducted an in-depth and somewhat rare interview with the man behind Koenigsegg Automobile, and one of the figureheads of the Koenigsegg Group – Mr Christian von Koenigsegg himself.
The interview is in the latest print version of the magazine and I understand it won’t be available online for a little while. Fortunately, I’m able to bring you some of the highlights from the piece, with thanks to the letters C, V and K and the number 9.
This is me working from an electronic translation. Any errors are mine and suggestions are welcome to fix inaccuracies.
The Koenigsegg-Saab story started with a blaze of hope and glory, but shortly thereafter the transaction was bogged down by media scepticism. This wasn’t helped by the silence of the Koenigsegg Group members, who have hesitated to address any doubts in the press.
With that backdrop, it’s really encouraing to hear from CvK, who radiates a lot of hope for the future for Saab and the developments that might take place under the ownership of the Koenigsegg Group.
There’s a lot more in the print edition and I’m sure the context will be easier to understand, too, so go out and grab yours now.

The whole idea of acquiring Saab started with Mark Bishop, who has family connections to Trollhattan. He started the process and then got in touch with Koenigsegg about participating. Bishop later left the group for personal reasons.
Koenigsegg Group want to build a successful Swedish car company out of Saab. He believes that just because Saab have not succeeded 100% in the past doesn’t mean that they can’t succeed in the future. The plant is now fully modernised and the cost structures are around 30% lower in Sweden than in Germany.
Augie Fabela
Has a black CCXR. Enough said – SW.
Bard Eker
Nothing is an obstacle for him.
Jan-Ake Jonsson
Stands for tradition and is a good balance in this group.
What will CvK do?
…may be able to help in terms of feedback….using Koenigsegg’s expertise in high-end vehicles to help Saab get cars that are optimised in terms of design, weight and technology

Read moreAuto Motor and Sport interview Christian von Koenigsegg

Koenigsegg Group ownership structure changes

UPDATED – Changed company name from ‘Sunshine’ to ‘Solsken’ as per advice in comments.

It always struck me as strange that the Koenigsegg Group comprised of four ‘owners’, but the smartest man in the room wasn’t one of them (with no disrespect to CvK, Eker or Bishop).
Augie Fabela was initially named as Chairman of the Koenigsegg Group board and was quite obviously the man with the most international business experience and connections. He built up a communications company in Russia that ended up listed on the New York Stock Exchange. That last sentence, considering much of it happened when Russia was still just in the process of opening up its economy, should tell you enough about what he’s done.
So the question as to why he was so involved but not as a part-owner was a vexing one. And it seems to be a scenario that’s changed.
This is the ownership structure of the Koenigsegg Group as it was first explained by the Swedish media:
Koenigsegg Saab ownership structure
This was published around the time that Mark Bishop pulled out of the group. It seems that decision might have been the catalyst for something that I believe was going to happen all along anyway – Augie Fabela getting involved in a financial way.
Swedish news service SvT reports that the company register shows a new ownership structure, as follows:

  • ‘Solsken’ – 42%
  • Alpraaz – 24%
  • Eker Group – 24%
  • Koenigsegg Auto – 10%

The new player there is a company called “Solsken”, which is apparently a Dutch-registered company owned by guess who?
Augie Fabela.
From SvT:

Nowadays the largest shareholder in Group Koenigsegg American businessman Augie K Fabel, who is also chairman of the board. He stands behind the fact the Dutch company with the cryptic Swedish sounding name of ‘Solsken’, which according to the share register was over 42 percent of the shares in mid-July. Solsken has an address in Amsterdam that is shared with many other companies. But no website or phone number.
Halldóra von Koenigsegg confirms that it is Fabel company.
-Yes, that’s it, “she says.

So we have one ownership structure change, with Fabela coming into the game in a meaningful way.
I wouldn’t get too used to this structure, however. Koenigsegg Group will most likely have a new investor coming on board quite soon (if not already) as they’ve been hunting around the markets trying to get additional finance to fill out their business plan.
Swedish media reports say that it’s another car company that is coming on board to help provide the 3billion SEK that was needed to see the business plan come to life, and thereby help to secure the EIB funding and government guaratees that Saab are seeking. Expect that company to be one that could benefit from the acquisition of those loans and the work Saab will do with those loans.

Today’s Koenigsegg story from Dagens Industri (print edition)

Earlier today, I bought you a quick summary note from Dagens Industri. They were writing in their print edition – not online – that Mark Bishop was the person leaving the Koenigsegg Group, and that someone else was buying his share.
The guy behind that email was Carl-Henrik and he’s been kind enough to do a full transcript as the article is still not available online.
The transcript follows, and there’ll be a “You make the news” entry later in case there’s any follow up from this whilst I’m sleeping (yes it happens).
Koenigseggs chairman Aguie Fabela takes command in the deal
The North American investor Mark Bishop has sold his shares in Koenigsegg Group, who are negotiating with General Motors about the takeover of Saab Automobile. That is what a central placed source says to DI. At the same time Koenigseggs chairman Augie Fabela breaks the silence about the Saab-deal.
“We will be able to present more news later. I’m not able to comment on the ownership situation right now” – says Augie K Fabela. More than that is he not willing to say. But it is still a sign that the Koenigsegg consortium wants to change the image of their secrecy as the deal enters a critical level.
The Koenigsegg Group chairman Augie K Fabela is also more and more showing himself as the driving force in the take over of Saab. He met the leadership at Saab last Wednesday and gave a long and detailed presentation of the plans. Among many things were talks about development of new technology, the possibilities to use GM’s technology and development of new models. “It is Augie Fabela that is the central person and not Mark Bishop. The negotiations continue as planned”, says Eric Geers, information-director at Saab Automobile, that was on the meeting.
The shares has a new owner
Augie Fabela has made a fortune on the Russian-Norwegian telecom company Vimpelcom. At the same time it is said that Mark Bishop has sold all his shares in Koenigsegg Group. “A new owner has taken over his shares and the negotiations between General Motors and Koenigsegg Group continues according to plan” – says the DI source.
Mark Bishop was with his 22 percent the second largest owner in the company. Judging by everything he has been affected by the large amount of attention from media and withdraws from the deal with GM / Saab Automobile.
Doesn’t effect
It is uncertain who it is that has taken over the control of the shares of Mark Bishop. Several sources emphasizes that it wont effect the deal. That suggests that it is a strong capital owner that has stepped in.
If the main owner the Koenigsegg family would have taken over the shares it would have become more difficult to finish the deal as the economical strength would have been considerably weaker. “I can’t comment on that” – says Halldora von Koenigsegg on Koenigsegg Automobile.
An important meeting between the Swedish government, Saab/GM and Koenigsegg Group will take place this week. There they will discuss the guarantees of the Swedish government for the EIB-loan on 4.3 billion Swedish kronor that Koenigsegg and Saab Automobile wants.
“Yes, that is correct. We will meet the Swedish government in a meeting this week. Negotiations continues as planned” – says Halldora von Koenigsegg. “The direction of Saab is very positive about together with Koenigsegg Group be able to present enough good securities for getting this loan” – says the DI source.
Even General Motors emphasizes that the negotiations continue. “Nothing has changed. We are negotiating with Koenigsegg Group about a binding agreement to buy Saab Automobile. That is planned to be finished during the third quarter this year” – says Karin Kirchner, spokesperson on General Motors Europe in Zürich.
Tried to hide it
DI can today also reveal how the newly founded Koenigsegg Group tried to hide both Mark Bishop’s and Augie K Fabela’s names when the information about the company’s board was handed in to Bolagsverket (The Swedish Authority that handles company registrations – my note) in the beginning of June.
“Classifying the information as secret would in this case should be applied by the authority (Bolagsverket – my note) when… these persons can be exposed for violence or suffer considerable or other if the information is revealed” – wrote Koenigsegg hired company consultant firm Bolagsrätt to Bolagsverket in the procedure of register Koenigsegg Group. The request was later withdrawn after discussions between the parties.
My thanks to Carl-Henrik for this translation!

Augie Fabela meeting Jöran Hägglund today

Whilst Holden can get $200million from the Aussie government with no strings attached, it’s a bit harder to get government support if you’re in Sweden.
News from e24 indicates that Koenigsegg Group Chairman, Augie Fabela, is due to meet with the Swedish government today.
The Koenigsegg Group has been under even more pressure than normal in recent days when it was disclosed by Hägglund that one shareholder in the group was leaving. Apparently it’s Mark Bishop, and he’s a little antsy about the spotlight that’s been shone on him since news of Koenigsegg’s selection was made public.
It’s a critical time in negotiations as Saab will need the government loan guarantees and the government need some assurance that the owners are financially strong and stable (and when someone up and leaves at crunch time, it doesn’t look stable).
The Googletrans (unedited):
Sensitive Saab meeting with the government today
Today should Koenigseggs President aUgi K Fabel convince government representative Jöran Hägglund that the business plan for the Saab and agree that the consortium has the financial muscle needed. Jöran Hägglund ask for a “credible” financing.
Today, continuing the tough negotiations between, among other government representative Jöran Hägglund and Koenigsegg consortium, with President aUgi K Fabel at the forefront. It provide a central source of E24.
In the pot, the state guarantees Koenigsegg Group and Saab need for the European Investment Bank, EIB, will grant a loan of 4.3 billion. According Jöran Hägglund includes the loan as a central part in Koenigseggs business plan for Saab. Without EIB loan will probably have no business.
But Jöran Hägglund still lacks a “credible” financing. For E24, he said that the main thing is questionable how long-term potential buyers are able to be.
– The automotive industry is extremely capital. And we – and the Saab, I think – are anxious owners to have long-term opportunity to get involved. And it is important to ensure that they are likely to have it, he declared for the E24 on Friday.
The consortium is also working continuously with the business to be presented to the EIB and Riksgälden / government.
The business plans by the government with Jöran Hägglund the lead and Riksgälden have seen so far have not convinced.
Today is also likely Koenigsegg Groups ownership be clarified.
State Jöran Hägglund managed to bring a lot of excitement last week when he announced that one of the persons behind bidder Koeningsegg Group is about to withdraw.
According to DI, it should focus on North American Mark Bishop who already have sold their 22 per cent of the Koenigsegg Group to a publicly unknown investors.
Jöran Hagglund said last week that the government, not even himself knew for sure how ownership constellation looks in the current situation.
– It is a matter that we ourselves may be a confirmed picture of how it actually looks in the owner constellation, and we will be clear shortly. We will have updates on the situation.
Saab Automobile wanted in connection with Jöran Hägglunds move not confirm that a person from a prospective buyer Koenigsegg Group was about to withdraw.
– We have a specific background, but as I said, for us it is important to shop in the port. Exactly how the final ownership structure will look like, we must wait, “says Eric Geer, Director of Saab Automobile, the E24 on Tuesday.
– We are doing a business with a very good group. Koenigsegg consortium. You can be confident that they are strong and ambitious.
But not even the government seems convinced that they are sufficiently financially strong?
– It may take you by the government. But the important thing is that we end the affair and we will do in the third quarter, “said Eric Geer.

Latest Koenigsegg news from print news in Sweden

I just got an email in from Sweden, where it’s quite early in the morning.
It reads as follows:

Good morning / afternoon!
Just read an article in todays edition of the paper version of Dagens Industri here in Sweden.
I can’t write the entire article, but it said that Mark Bishop has sold his shares in K-segg group and that there is a new owner. The article also says that Augie Fabela is the leading person in K-egg group and that they had a meeting with Saab/GM last week here in Sweden.
Just wanted to give you that short notice.. to keep you updated. I haven’t found that article on the online-version of Dagens Industri, but if I do I’ll send you a link later.

I’ll keep an eye out. If you Swedes spot it online, please feel free to update us via comments.
Thanks to Carl-Henrik for the update!

A little of the Augie Fabela story

Augie Fabela is the Chairman of the Koenigsegg Group. He is not listed as someone who owns a stake in the group, but he has deep connections with Koenigsegg, being noted previously as the head of the American distribution organisation for Koenigsegg.
Fabela, a US citizen, made his mark on the business world by heading to Russia at a young age and co-founding one of Russia’s first big mobile communications companies. The company was called Vimpelcom and they traded as BeeLine.
Fabela got into business with the Russians through his father’s connections. The Fabela family sponsored visits to the US from Russian businessmen in the electronics industries and it was through these visits that the partnerships that would become Vimpelcom were formed.
Vimpelcom became only the 2nd Russian company to list on the New York Stock Exchange, the first in the post-Soviet era. The only Russian company to list on the NYSE prior to Vimpelcom was the company that built the trans-Siberian railroad in the early 1900s.

I learned all of this (well, 2nd paragraph onwards) by reading a book written and published online by another – and the most prominent – of Vimpelcom’s co-founders, Dmitry Zimin.
That’s Zimin, second from the left.
This photo was taken a few years after he retired. To commemorate the anniversary, he was joined by Koenigsegg Group part owner, Melissa Schwartz as well as Koenigsegg Group Chairman, Augie Fabela (to Zimin’s right). They presented him with the actual flag that flew outside the NYSE the day Vimpelcom was listed.
This book is Zimin’s story, but there is plenty of Fabela’s story in there, too.
It chronicles, in broad terms, the struggle to establish a privately owned, new tech company in early-1990’s post-Soviet Russia. I’m sure there’s plenty that isn’t told in the story, but over all it’s a story of overcoming some pretty serious commercial and political challenges in an environment that was pretty hostile for much of the time.
I found the book thanks to Michael Z, who summed it up pretty well in his email to me:

…..what I’d like to point out is that Zimin and Fabela made their business and money not from stealing trains with oil and other property from the country and then selling and buying properties with the only aim to make money, like Abramovich, but from getting their work done, and that was by no means an easy task.

As Michael says, it paints the picture of a pretty arduous training ground for the guy who I believe is the primary mover and shaker in the Koenigsegg Group. It also gives me a fair bit of confidence that a guy like Fabela can get the job done.
And if nothing else, it’s a fun read merely for metaphors about buxom wet nurses, transmission tower thefts and a guy named Livshits.
It’s not a difficult read at all. It’s more of a long short-story than a full-on biography. I read most of the relevant chapters in a lunch hour.
Start here at Chapter 5 – the beginnings of Vimpelcom.
Thanks again to Michael for the discovery!!

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