STOCKHOLM -- Spyker Cars NV plans to sell Saab Automobile property to a company controlled by Russian investor Vladimir Antonov and then lease it back to save the cash-strapped carmaker from bankruptcy, two people familiar with the situation said.
The Swedish government, which must approve the plan, may make a decision as early as today, said the sources, who declined to be identified because the talks are private.
The deal would provide a financial lifeline to Saab, which has been forced to halt production amid a payment dispute with suppliers.
The funding to purchase Saab's property would come from one or more banks controlled by Antonov, the Bankas Snoras in Lithuania or Latvijas Krajbanka in Latvia, the people said.
Saab first suspended production on March 29 after suppliers stopped delivering components. Saab CEO Jan- Aake Jonsson said April 4 the company's liquidity "became more strained" during the second half of the first quarter, declining to give more details.
Spyker stock has gained 21 percent this year, valuing the carmaker at 84 million euros ($122 million).
Spyker is in "discussions with a financial institution," the Netherlands-based company said in a statement today. "The outcome of the discussions is still uncertain and subject to the approval of the Swedish National Debt Office."
Gunilla Gustavs, a Saab spokeswoman, and Haakan Lind, a Swedish government spokesman, didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.
Saab had intended as late as Sunday to borrow money directly from Bankas Snoras, the people said. The plan was adjusted after it became clear Lithuanian financial regulators would not quickly approve the proposal, they added.
The Swedish government is involved because it's guaranteeing Saab's 400 million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank, the European Union's lending arm.
Spyker bought Saab from General Motors Co. in February 2010 for $74 million in cash and $326 million in preferred shares. Saab's sales have plummeted in recent years and the carmaker was on the brink of shutting down during the financial crisis before Spyker bought it.
Last year Saab sold 31,696 cars, down from an original forecast of between 50,000 and 60,000 vehicles. Sales were hurt in 2010 because it took longer than expected to restore the flow of production after GM emptied the factory and cut Saab's supplier ties in January of last year, Spyker CEO Victor Muller has said.
The Swedish government has agreed to let Saab free up collateral now used to back the EIB loan, of which Saab so far has drawn 217 million euros, the people said. The freed-up collateral allows Saab to sell property to Antonov's company. The property to be sold would include at least parts of Saab's factory in Trollhaettan in southwestern Sweden, where the carmaker is based.
The plan would allow the struggling carmaker to pay suppliers and restart production while it waits for clearance to bring in Antonov as a shareholder and investor.
Antonov is ready to invest at least 50 million euros in Saab, Lars Carlstrom, his spokesman in Sweden, said April 8. Antonov has agreed to cap his stake in Saab at below 30 percent, Carlstrom said then.
Antonov in February announced plans to buy Spyker's sports-car unit. Saab, which introduced the new 9-5 sedan last year and in the coming months plans to roll out the 9-4X crossover and 9-5 wagon, aims to sell 120,000 cars and become profitable by 2012. Its best year was in 2006, when it sold 133,000 autos.