UPDATE 1-Swedish debt office approves Saab property deal

Tue Jul 5, 2011 11:17am EDT

* Debt office: state can release assets held as collateral

* Deal still needs approval from government

* Saab 2010 operating loss 3.1 bln SEK

(Adds background, details)

STOCKHOLM, July 5 (Reuters) - Sweden's debt office gave Swedish Automobile a green light on Tuesday for a property sale and leaseback deal that will help ease a cash crunch at struggling carmaker Saab.

Production at Saab has been down for most of the last three months due to liquidity problems, and the carmaker has been piecing together funding options so it can settle staff wages and unpaid bills from suppliers.

The property deal with a consortium of Swedish real estate investors, led by Hemfosa Fastighether, is one of Saab's short-term funding solutions and will bring in 28 million euros ($39.7 million) if it gets final approval from the Swedish government.

Access to these short-term funds should help Saab move closer to its goal of restarting production. It is still negotiating with suppliers over unpaid bills and said last week it hoped to get production up and running in two weeks.

The nod from the debt office came a day after the European Investment Bank (EIB) said that it had no issue with the assets, which have been used as collateral for a state-guaranteed loan Saab has with the EIB, being released for the deal.

Chinese investors on Monday pledged to buy shares in Saab and approved Russian financier Vladimir Antonov taking a stake, bringing a long-term solution to the carmaker's financing woes a step closer.

Analysts, however, have warned it could take several months for a deal to be signed off by Chinese regulatory authorities, while approvals are also needed from Sweden, former owner General Motors and the EIB.

Papers filed with the Swedish Companies Registration Office obtained on Tuesday showed Saab reporting an operating loss of 3.1 billion Swedish crowns ($495.5 million) in 2010, when it sold 28,284 cars.

Swedish Automobile, formerly known as Spyker, reported in March a 140 million euro operating loss for the group in 2010.

Shares in Swedish Automobile were roughly unchanged on Tuesday.

($1 = 0.705 Euros)

($1 = 6.257 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by David Hulmes)

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