That must have been an interesting meeting in Frankfurt yesterday (12 September) between Saab CEO Victor Muller and many of his embittered suppliers.
Despite the troubled – to put it mildly – automaker’s decision to skip the IAA jamboree this year – (imagine the headlines if it had pitched up with a shiny new stand) – the Saab boss decided to enter the lion’s den and meet face to face with the suppliers who in the dim and distant past kicked the whole payments dispute off.
It happens to be Muller’s birthday today (13 September) so as an eve-of-celebration bash, it was probably quite a sombre affair in the German financial capital as the CEO fights several enormous fires simultaneously in a bid to inject some sort of life into his limping company.
Nonetheless, the CEO of automotive supplier body CLEPA, Lars Holmqvist, praised Muller’s courage to just-auto in turning up to Frankfurt, noting the Brussels-based representatives’ president had called him “honourable” for putting his case.
That wasn’t however, before Holmqvist majestically handed Muller a double-edged sword, describing the Saab boss as “chronically optimistic,” a description of faint praise if there ever was one, but which lets Saab know in no uncertain terms what CLEPA’s dry assessment is.
Holmqvist offered a further critique of Muller’s efforts from Frankfurt to just-auto as: “He talked in some detail about the way he could see the short-term and long-term financing. “We don’t believe everything he is saying because some of it is in the form of a lot of hope.”
That hope needs to be translated pretty sharpish from the Frankfurt meeting back closer to home as the spotlight now focuses relentlessly on two Swedish Court houses.
Both the Vanersborg District Court and the Gothenburg Court of Appeal are now intricately linked with Saab as the automaker appeals against its voluntary reorgansiation rejection and as two of its labour bodies – Unionen and Ledarnea – say they have finally had enough and have submitted claims for bankruptcy in a bid to recover unpaid salaries.
The other two main unions – Sveriges Ingenjorer and IF Metall – have so far held back from taking such a drastic step – but have the floodgates now opened?
Just to add a further twist, Saab has now filed its appeal, although in a bizarre move, apparently submitted it half an hour after the final post had left. Nothing it seems is straightforward with the automaker as the sword of Damocles hangs over it by a thread.
There are suggestions the Chinese are expediting their approval processes to invest in Saab, although no confirmation as yet. Should that persuade the Court and it allows Saab to go into voluntary reconstruction, the State would guarantee payment to staff, but if even if a Houdini-like escape is performed, that money would have to be refunded to Stockholm.
“The State pays salaries during reconstruction – it is a loan so after reconstruction ends, Saab has to repay,” a Vanersborg District Court spokeswoman told just-auto.
There is no free lunch when it comes to Saab.