STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Sweden's debt office on Thursday approved a controversial Russian businessman as a new investor in Saab, offering a glimmer of hope the struggling carmaker will scrape together enough cash to relaunch production.
"The National Debt Office (NDO) has not found any reason to deny an application from Saab and (its Dutch owner) Spyker for Vladimir Antonov to become a shareholder," the government agency said in a statement.
Antonov is a former Spyker shareholder, who was blocked from taking a stake in Saab when the Dutch company saved it from bankruptcy in January 2010 by buying it from GM.
He was prevented from gettin ginvolved in the iconic carmaker due to concerns over his business dealings and rumours of ties to organised crime.
"There have been a lot of rumours going around that have led to us conducting this probe. But we have not found anything to indicate that he is not a suitable owner," NDO chief Bo Lundgren told reporters.
"When you talk to him, it is obvious that he is genuinely interested in Saab," he added.
Antonov himself said: "I am very happy finally getting the recommendation from the NDO... The past months of speculations around me, as an individual investor and my businesses has been exhausting."
"Finally we have managed to obtain a clean bill of health and we need to move fast forward to secure the cash flow of Saab Automobile," he said in a statement issued by Spyker.
The NDO announcement came three weeks after Saab announced it would be shutting production "until further notice," amid conflicts with suppliers over unpaid bills.
With several Saab suppliers warning of layoffs, the company has said it is also looking into raising funds by partnering with "various Chinese car manufacturers," without providing further details.
Spyker chief executive Victor Muller however voiced optimism Thursday that all the parties involved would soon approve Antonov as a new shareholder.
"This is a great day for our company and for me personally. We worked relentlessly for 11 months to achieve the desired result: restore the reputation of Vladimir Antonov, who made so many valuable contributions to Spyker since 2007 as financier and shareholder," he said in the Spyker statement.
"We are convinced he will be able to make such contributions again in the near future and look forward to the decisions of the Swedish Government, General Motors and the European Investment Bank (EIB), following the recommendation of the NDO," he added.
The NDO, which has a say in Saab's ownership since it has guaranteed a 400-million-euro ($580-million) European Investment Bank loan to the company, said it had received a request on March 29 from Saab and Spyker for Antonov to be allowed in.
He would pay up to 30 million euros for a maximum of 29.9 percent of voting rights, the NDO statement said.
It could take a while however before the Swedish carmaker sees any of that cash, since the Swedish government, the EIB and Saab's previous owner and current shareholder GM still need to back the ownership change.
While the government in Stockholm will likely back the NDO's decision, and GM told Swedish media Thursday it would agree to the change of ownership on certain conditions, the EIB may prove more difficult to convince.
The bank has already been dragging its feet to approve another cash-raising scheme that has received the green light from Sweden and the NDO.
That refinancing plan calls for the NDO to release its security in Saab Property -- including the company's plant in Trollheattan in western Sweden -- used to guarantee the EIB loan, so Spyker can sell it and lease it back.
The plan is separate from the proposed ownership change, but Antonov is also the anticipated buyer of Saab Property.
NEW YORK – Top executives of NYSE Euronext Inc., parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, deflected angry questions about its rejection of a rival takeover bid at the company's annual shareholder meeting Thursday.
Last week NYSE Euronext's board again turned down an unsolicited $11.3 billion bid from Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and IntercontinentalExchange Inc. that would carve the company in half. NYSE Euronext says it favors a deal it already has in place to combine with Deutsche Boerse, owner of the Frankfurt stock exchange.
Jan-Michiel Hessels, the chairman of NYSE Euronext, told shareholders that the Nasdaq bid was "fraught with unacceptable risk" and would not clear regulatory hurdles. Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange are the two main stock exchange operators in the U.S.
"The request for a meeting is a tactic principally designed to be disruptive to our combination," Hessels said.
The directors of NYSE Euronext were re-elected by an 80 percent margin, but shareholders also approved a proposal that gave them the right to call special stockholder meetings.
Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, told reporters the new rule would take several months to implement and wouldn't affect the merger. The board had recommended shareholders vote against the proposal.
Shareholders said Nasdaq representatives had appealed to them directly to discuss the bid. They expressed concern that the takeover attempt, which was worth $1.4 billion more than the Deutsche Boerse deal, was not being considered. Hessels called the Nasdaq buyout offer an "empty vessel," saying "it looks nice, but there is nothing there."
NYSE Euronext also announced that its income rose 19 percent in the first quarter thanks to sharply higher trading volumes on its U.S. and European exchanges.
The trans-Atlantic operator of the Paris, New York and other stock exchanges said in a statement it earned $155 million in the January-March quarter, up from $130 million a year earlier. Earnings per share excluding one-time items rose to 68 cents from 54 cents.
Revenue rose 6 percent to $1.15 billion on gains in average daily volume in cash trading and listings, which rose 32 percent in Europe and 15 percent in the U.S.
The company booked $15 million in costs during the quarter related to its proposed $10 billion merger with Deutsche Boerse.
Associated Press writer Greg Keller in Paris contributed reporting.
MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia's top Internet portal Yandex announced plans Thursday to hold an initial public offering on New York's NASDAQ stock exchange.
"Yandex N.V. announced today that it has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its Class A ordinary shares," the company said in a statement.
The fast-rising Russian Internet giant said it had not yet determined the amount of ordinary shares it would offer or the estimated price range of the stock.
Earlier Russian press reports said the firm -- most famous in Russia for its popular search engine -- intended to raise up to $1 billion through the offering.
The main Russian rival to Google said that Morgan Stanley would act as the sole global coordinator for the proposed offering.
Bookrunners besides Morgan Stanley would also include Deutsche Bank Securities and the US Goldman Sachs investment banking firm.
The announcement was made five months after Mail.ru -- Russia's largest free e-mail service -- raised $912 million dollars on the London Stock Exchange.
Yandex had been initially planning to sell up to 20 percent of its shares in New York before the onset of the global 2008 global financial crisis.
Analysts estimate that Yandex was worth about $3 billion before the crisis and that its value may now have climbed to $8 billion.