April 4, 2011 / 11:09 AM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-No collapse at Saab, owner Spyker says

* Spyker says Swedish Saab not on verge of collapse

* Solving liquidity crunch

* Russian financier eyes stake

(Adds quotes on Antonov, background)

By Patrick Lannin and Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM, April 4 (Reuters) - The production problems which hit loss-making Swedish carmaker Saab last week were a small glitch which the company will survive, Dutch owner Spyker Cars NV SPYKR.AS said on Monday.

Saab, based in western Sweden, had to stop production for three days after suppliers stopped deliveries due to unpaid bills. The problems, which Spyker has said are now solved, raised question marks about the company’s finances.

But Spyker Chief Executive Victor Muller, whose company bought Saab in 2010 from General Motors (GM.N), remained upbeat. “Saab is still producing and it is not on the verge of collapse,” Muller told a news conference where Saab was presenting new vehicles already shown at the Geneva auto show, including a concept sportscar model called the Saab PhoeniX.

“A small glitch does not change the fact that cars are being made,” he added.

He said the company would by next year have the widest and newest range in its history and output this year would be weighted towards the latter half.

He repeated a forecast that output this year would be 80,000 cars and Saab would be profitable in 2012. Production this year would be weighted heavily to the latter end of 2011.

Saab President and Chief Executive Jan Ake Jonsson, who unexpectedly announced his retirement two weeks ago, said the company had faced a tightening in liquidity in the second half of the quarter but was working to solve the problem.

    Efforts to boost Saab’s long-term financing are focused on Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, who has submitted an application to take a stake in the loss-making car manufacturer.

    Antonov used to be a third owner in Spyker, but was forced out of the Saab deal by GM after media reports of links to organised crime, which he denied. He says he has cleared his name and that GM is ready to have him back as a shareholder.

    Spyker has applied to allow Antonov back as a shareholder to the Swedish Debt Office, which must give its approval as Sweden has guaranteed a 400 million euro ($568.9 million) EIB loan.

    Muller said he did not know when the permission from Sweden would be forthcoming, but hoped it would be soon.

    He said any Antonov stake in Spyker would be below 30 percent, otherwise the Russian would have to make a bid for the whole of the company.

    “I would love to have him back (as a shareholder),” Muller added, saying there had not been a “shred of evidence” of wrongdoing by Antonov.

    Muller said Spyker was keen to repay the EIB loan as the company wanted to be independent from the government. (Editing by David Holmes) ($1=.7031 Euro)

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