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SWEDEN: Antonov's company counters negative PR as Saab decision looms

By Simon Warburton | 20 April 2011

Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov's holding company says it sees "no reason" why its application to acquire Saab's property in exchange for a cash injection should not be approved despite negative press.

The Convers Group, which acts as a holding company for Antonov, made its prediction at the same time as mounting a robust defence of the Russian's former bad publicity, that it insisted was groundless.

It is widely expected Sweden's National Debt Office will deliver a view today (20 April) as to whether or not the Trollhattan facility could be sold, although a director involved with the Russian conceded the issue was clouded by previous bad PR for Antonov.

"The thing regarding Antonov, he was accused of being involved with business that was not good," Convers Group director Lars Carlstrom in Sweden told just-auto. "Several investigations were made and nothing was found.

"His problem has been rumours took off in the media and were quite intense. A Russian with money makes people suspicious."

Carlstrom confirmed Antonov was seeking a 30% stake in Spyker should his cash injection be approved and expressed optimism that Saab could return to producing cars in significant volumes.

"I don't see any reason for Saab selling less than 100,000 units in a market where confidence is back for it," he said. "That is no worry for Saab. The thing is, Antonov sees a very interesting business model for Saab."

Larstrom added if approval was given today for a financial restructuring, he estimated Saab production could start "no doubt" after Easter.

The Trollhattan factory remains shuttered as the issue is debated by the Debt Office and if necessary, by the European Investment Bank that provided Saab with an original EUR400m (US£581m) loan guaranteed by the Swedish government.