Near-bankrupt Saab says it can't pay staff

Thursday 23 June 2011 15.30
Saab - Company can't pay its workers
Saab - Company can't pay its workers

Swedish car maker Saab cannot pay its staff, its Dutch parent company Swedish Automobile said today, admitting it was not sure of obtaining fresh funding.

The company has been counting on a tie-up with two Chinese firms, but after today's statement the government repeated its position that it would not step in to save the company.

'Swedish Automobile (formerly Spyker Cars) announces that Saab Automobile be unable to pay the wages to employees as it has not yet obtained the necessary short-term funding,' the parent firm said in a statement.

The announcement was yet another setback for the cash-strapped brand and deepened the uncertainty around survival of the firm.

About 1,500 blue-collar workers, who were set to receive their salaries today, were immediately affected, a Saab spokeswoman said. If the carmaker's situation stays the same, the remainder of the firm's 3,700 employees, will also miss their upcoming payday, scheduled for Monday.

Saab, which has based its funding strategy on tie-ups in China, had announced on June 13 a partnership with two Chinese businesses which was to generate investment of €245m. The two Chinese firms are car distributor Pang Da and manufacturer Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.

But production at the Saab factory at Trollhaettan in western Sweden has been at a standstill since June 8. On Monday, management told workers on the assembly lines that they should not come to work before July 4.

Swedish Automobile said it was continuing funding talks but that 'there can however be no assurance that these discussions will be successful or that the necessary funding will be obtained.

Sweden's Entreprise minister Maud Olofsson, in charge of the Saab file, reiterated that the government would not step in to finance help for the beleaguered automaker. 'It is Saab which has the responsibility and must find the financial solution,' she said.

Swedish media hinted the carmaker could soon declare bankruptcy, with the unions pushing for the measure because it would allow staff to be paid, while analysts said Saab's end was near.

The iconic Swedish brand, which employs 3,700 people, was saved at the last minute at the beginning of 2010 when it was bought by small Dutch firm Spyker from
US giant General Motors which wanted to end its involvement in the wake of the financial crisis.

Since then Spyker, which announced big ambitions for Saab, has lurched from one cash crisis to another. A previous deal with a Chinese firm fell through. Its attempts to tie up with Chinese firms are aimed partly at accessing funding and partly at widening access to the fast-growing Chinese car market.