EIB Says Decision to Block Antonov From Saab Investment Stands

The European Investment Bank said it will bar Russian banker Vladimir Antonov from investing in Saab Automobile as long as the struggling Swedish carmaker owes the bank money.

“The EIB confirms that the loan to Saab was made available under the condition that Vladimir Antonov not get the opportunity to take ownership in Saab,” Par Isaksson, a spokesman for the European Union’s lending arm, said by phone today. “This decision stands.”

The EIB decided to prevent Antonov and informed the Swedish government of that decision in 2009 when the Trollhaettan, Sweden-based carmaker first applied for the loan, Isaksson said, declining to give a reason for the rejection. Saab owes 217 million euros ($310 million) to the EIB.

Saab was forced to halt production in April amid a cash shortage. The company is negotiating payment and delivery terms with suppliers and aims to restart manufacturing in the week of Aug. 29, it said July 21. It’s also trying to raise more cash, including from Antonov who aims to invest 100 million euros in Saab.

Swedish Automobile NV, Saab Auto’s Dutch parent, fell as much as 14 percent and was down 8.8 percent, or 13 cents, at 1.355 euros as of 4:17 p.m. in Amsterdam.

Legal Action

Lars Carlstrom, a spokesman for Antonov, said the banker may report the EIB decision to the European Commission and will “weigh opportunities for legal action” against the bank and the Swedish government. “The EIB and the government have pretended for months to consider our application to let Antonov in. This charade has probably cost Saab a billion kronor,” he said by telephone.

Johanna Martin, spokeswoman for Swedish Industry Minister Maud Olofsson, said the government is not making a decision on Antonov until it hears from the EIB and Saab’s former owner General Motors Co.

Antonov’s investment in Saab would be in the form of working capital, letter of credit and shares, Carlstrom said. Antonov would cap his stake in Swedish Automobile at below 30 percent, Carlstrom said.

“We’re not aware of any suspicions against Antonov, so we really wish the EIB would explain its decision to bar him,” Eric Geers, a Saab spokesman, said today by phone. “We would love to have him as investor.”

Carlstrom said it “looks promising” that Saab will secure a commercial loan “within weeks” that will allow it to pay off the EIB, and pave the way for Antonov to invest in Saab.

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