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'Hawtai's official figures may be exaggerated'

Swedish embassy in Beijing doubts Saab saviour: internal report.

Saab's saviour Hawtai dismisses doubts over deal
Saab lands €150 million from China's Hawtai

Sweden's ambassador in Beijing, in an internal report quoted by a Swedish daily Thursday, painted a picture of Saab's new partner Hawtai that clashed with the image of a modern, solid and efficient company.

China's Hawtai has inflated its production figures and changed chief executives numerous times over the past years, the Swedish embassy in Beijing warned in a report destined for the foreign ministry.

"According to the embassy's experience (Hawtai's) official figures may be exaggerated," Sweden's ambassador to China Lars Freden wrote in a report to the foreign ministry obtained by the Svenska Dagbladet (Svd) daily.

In a deal unveiled on Tuesday, Hawtai is set to inject 150 million euros ($223 million) into Saab through a partnership including joint ventures in manufacturing, technology and distribution.

Hawtai said it produced 81,000 cars last year and said it has the capacity to make 200,000 a year.

SvD said its own sources put Hawtai's production figure for last year at 60,000 cars.

Saab said the ambassador's words were misinterpreted and stressed Hawtai was "extremely modern, very solid in terms of financing" and had "a distribution network, extremly modern reasearch and development and production facilities."

The embassy's report also said although Hawtai has existed for 10 years, it has produced its own cars, under its own brand name, for only about a year.

It added Hawtai's parent company, Hengtong Group, derives most of its profits from mining, energy, telecommunications, infrastructure, banking and real estate.

"According to the embassy's source, Hawtai's financial strength comes from mining rather than carmaking," the report said, according to SvD, adding that "Hawtai has changed chief executive six times over the past eight years."

"Technology transfer is central to Hawtai's interest in Saab. For Saab's long-term competitiveness it is reasonably important that the company keep its integrity," ambassador Lars Freden wrote in the report.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers told AFP it was "a bit unfortunate that the interpretation in certain media (of the embassy's report) was not exactly right."

"It was unfortunate for the Swedish ambassador who expressed it directly to Victor Muller," the head of Saab's Dutch owner Spyker, Geers said.

He added Freden was present at announcement of the partnership in Beijing, "and he congratulated Victor Muller several times during the press conference."

SvD's article contained "a few subjective statements," he said, adding "it is important for us to say that we believe, and Hawtai believes, that this is an absolutely fantastic partnership."

Tuesday's deal, which plans for Hawtai to take a 29.9 percent stake in Saab's Dutch owner Spyker, came as a last minute lifeline for the cash-strapped Swedish brand.

Saab halted production almost a month ago as suppliers halted deliveries over unpaid bills.

Swedish media reported that a Hawtai delegation visited Saab's plant in Trollheattan, in western Sweden. Production has not been restarted but Saab was to test-produce 15 to 20 cars Thursday.


Last Updated (Friday, 06 May 2011 09:21)


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