By Roland Gribben
A Chinese company has provided a lifeline for Saab Automobile with a cut-price order for almost 600 cars and enough cash to pay the wages of its 3,800 workers this month and make some payment to suppliers.
The unnamed buyer has made an advance payment of €13m (£11.5m) for 582 cars, offering the financially ailing Swedish carmaker more breathing space to raise the funds needed to keep the business on the road.
Last week the work force was told there was not enough money to pay wages. The order price works out at an average of £19,486 per car compared the current lowest price in Britain of £21,50-5 for a Saab 9-3 SE 2.0/t saloon
Saab was forced to halt production at its Trolhattan plant north of Gothenburg two months following a row with suppliers over unpaid bills. It has offered to pay suppliers 10pc of what they are owed to restart production and says it hopes to pay off all its debts by mid-September along with interest of 6pc to cover the delays.
Dutch-based owners, Swedish Automobile, formerly Spyker Cars, has been struggling to raise short-term funding while it presses regulators to speed up clearance for the sale of more than 50pc of the equity to two Chinese investors, Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile and Pang Da Automobile to provide medium-term financing totalling €245m.
The long-running battle to save one of Sweden's prestige businesses and brand names has also seen the entire board, including employee representatives, of the Saab Automobile subsidiary, with the exception of Victor Muller, chief executive, resign.
Mr Muller said that while talks were under way with other potential investors to bolster short-term funding there could be no assurance that the discussions will be successful or that additional finance will be raised.
Swedish Automobile is also in talks with property groups over the sale and leaseback of the Trollhattan plant and other real estate interests while controversial Russian investor Vladimir Antonov continues to seek clearance for providing capital.