STOCKHOLM, June 8 Sweden is likely to take over
bankrupt carmaker Saab's spare parts unit, the country's Debt
Office said on Friday, a potential embarrassment for a
centre-right government focused on privatising state assets.
The carmaker was declared insolvent at the end of 2011 with
debts of around 13 billion Swedish crowns ($1.8 billion), around
2.2 billion of which is owed to the Debt Office itself.
Although receivers have been trying to sell Saab's assets,
it looks like a buyer can't be found who is willing to pay
enough to cover the company's debt to the Debt Office, which
holds shares in Saab units Saab Automobile Parts and Saab
Debt Office head Bo Lundgren said a sale of Saab as a whole
was still the best solution and that Saab Tools was likely to be
part of any deal. But he said the government is ready to run
Saab Automobile Parts to ensure taxpayers recoup their money if
the unit can't be sold at the right price.
"If there isn't a sale of the whole concern ... we are going
to take over Saab Parts," Lundgren said.
The Debt Office took shares in Saab Automobile Parts - a
daughter company to Saab Automobile - and Saab Tools as
collateral for guaranteeing a loan from the European Investment
Bank to Saab Automobile.
Early this year, the Debt Office paid off the EIB saying the
collateral was worth more than the loan.
Lundgren said the Debt Office now reckoned it could get
taxpayers' money back from the sale of shares in Saab Tools and
from profits from Saab Parts over the coming seven or eight
"Hopefully, we can sell (Saab Parts) after a couple of years
to someone who understands the future value," he said.
Taking over Saab Parts would be an about-face for the
government, which said when Saab got into trouble that it did
not want to run a car company.
Furthermore, the centre-right government has been busy
selling off state assets, disposing of Absolut Vodka maker Vin &
Sprit and reducing stakes in banking group Nordea and
telecom operator TeliaSonera.
The four party alliance had plans to further cut state
ownership, but lost its majority in an election in 2010. The
economic downturn has also made it difficult to get a good price
The Debt Office issued loan guarantee in February 2010 to
help Saab restructure. The original guarantee was for loans up
to 400 million euros ($502.5 million), but this was later
reduced to 280 million of which Saab used 217 million.
The loans were to finance projects to develop
environmentally sound technology.
($1 = 7.1603 Swedish crowns)
($1 = 0.7960 euros)
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by David Holmes)