* Debt office receives Saab application for ownership change
* Hawtai, Gemini financing part of Saab rescue plan
* Spyker’s Saab needs Sweden, EIB and China approvals
(Adds detail, background)
By Mia Shanley
STOCKHOLM, May 6 (Reuters) - Ailing carmaker Saab has asked Sweden’s debt office to approve a change in ownership so Chinese group Hawtai and investment fund Gemini can pump in cash and help get production restarted.
Loss-making Saab ran into cashflow problems last month, and many of its suppliers have held back deliveries, forcing it to stop production and sending its executives scrambling to raise funds to save the brand.
As part of a rescue plan that also involves money from Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, Saab owner Spyker Cars SPYKR.AS said this week privately owned Hawtai would invest 150 million euros ($210 million). [ID:nLDE74208P]
Hawtai, which makes SUVs and passenger cars in China, plans to take a 29.9 percent stake, paving the way for the new Saab 9-3 model to be made in China.
Saab has also asked that Gemini Investment Fund, which according to the AFM Dutch financial supervisor owns about 8 percent of Spyker, be allowed to take a bigger stake.
“There are two partners named on the application — Hawtai Motor Group Co and Gemini Investment Fund,” said Unni Jerndal, a spokeswoman at the Swedish Debt Office. “We cannot say how long this will take, but we have started to work on it.”
Spyker Cars needs approval from the debt office and European Investment Bank to go ahead with any change in ownership, according to the terms of an outstanding loan with the EIB.
Hawtai also needs Chinese government approval.
The Hawtai deal is one of several pulled together to stave off Saab’s collapse, including share issues, the sale of Spyker’s sportscar operations and a plan for a sale and leaseback of Saab’s real estate involving Antonov.
Spyker chief executive Victor Muller said on Tuesday Hawtai would pay the first instalment of its investment within 10 days.
Saab has said production could restart within a week if it can reach an agreement with suppliers.
The Chinese alliance comes only a year after the tiny Dutch supercar maker bailed out the General Motors’ (GM.N) unit.
Spyker has struggled to turn Saab around, producing only 31,700 cars last year. It set a sales target of 80,000 vehicles for 2011, but last week said it would fail to meet that. (Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Mike Nesbit and Will Waterman) ($1 = 0.7158 euros)