Företagsrekonstruktion

The past week has been pretty eventful indeed. Would the NEVS reorganization come to an abrupt halt or was there hope anyway? Well at least we know now that the process can continue. But was there also a series of entirely new announcements as CEO Mattias Bergman was stating to the press before he entered the room where the creditors meeting was taking place? Not really. Or?

© 2014 saabblog.net
© 2014 saabblog.net

Vänersborg (sister city to Trollhättan and the home of the district court under which the case resides) was once more the center of the (SAAB) world on Wednesday. While apparently the turnout wasn't as overwhelming as in 2011 when SAAB Automobile AB went through a similar exercise, the room was packed with both creditors and press. Notably absent however was Kai-Johan Jiang, NEVS chairman and majority owner. The company was represented by CEO Mattias Bergman and several members of the management team, including Director Communications & Public Affairs Mikael Östlund.

Företagsrekonstruktion
Purpose of the day was to have the court take a decision on whether or not the reconstruction could continue. But what is “reconstruction” anyway? For many non-Swedes, "företagsrekonstruktion”(Translated:“ corporate restructuring ”, but I'll be using the term“ reorganization ”from now on as it is also officially used by the administrator) is an unfamiliar term, and I think it could be useful for past and future reference to try and explain it.

While I'm Having a Legal Expert I, One could describe the reorganization as a process to an administrator appointed by a district court. Key in this assessment is therefore to protect the creditors' interests and to see what possibilities there are to strike a financial accord with them.

For a reorganization to take place a few prerequisites need to be met. The first one is that in the foreseeable future. The second is there to be a reasonable chance for the reconstruction to succeed.

2011- does not mean that the bankruptcy can be avoided.

Independently of who applies administrator needs to be appointed by the court. This person has a good understanding and experience and is an experienced lawyer.

When the company applies for reorganization (which happened in the case of NEVS), the following documents need to be submitted to the court: 1) summary of current financial situation and reasons for inability to fulfill financial obligations 2) overview of how the company plans to run its business in the future and how an agreement will the creditors will be reached 3) proposal for an administrator.

If the court approves the application (which it finally did on 29 August after it had been rejected the prior day), it appoints the administrator (Lars-Eric Gustafsson) and a creditors meeting (8 October).

The court decision so that during the reorganization phase the company is not allowed to pay any debts, the contracts may be canceled other liabilities with the permission of the administrator. In practice, this means that the administrator is taking executive responsibility from the CEO. Another important point is that the salaries for the staff are covered by the government ("statelig lönegaranti").

Within three weeks of the decision, a meeting with the creditors needs to be held. During this meeting a preliminary reorganization plan is to be presented before the court. The reorganization process will stop if the court deems that there are insufficient conditions for the reconstruction to continue, with the logical next step being bankruptcy. If however the court deems that the required conditions are met, a creditors committee is appointed. Financing, structural alterations in the company structure and any staff changes.

Normally a reorganization process takes up till 3 months (so in this case until November 29th), but can be under 3 months, with a maximum of one year.

SAAB AB in Linköping reportedly suspended NEVS the right to use the SAAB brand. © 2014 saabblog.net
SAAB AB in Linköping reportedly suspended NEVS the right to use the SAAB brand. © 2014 saabblog.net

So why is this relevant?
I could just summarized the above in just a few lines, but given the different nature of this journey to other countries legal systems (I believe only "Chapter 11" in the USA is somewhat comparable and there are similar procedures in Brazil and Denmark) this hopefully is meaningful context to what sometimes feels like a mysterious process.

As we know the court decided on the 8th to allow the continuation of the reorganization process and a creditors committee was appointed consisting of representatives from the Swedish tax office, Leannova Engineering, Orio, Hewlett Packard, Plastal and labor unions IF Metall and Unionen. Neither of the members has decision or veto powers.

So all in all quite good news, as the alternative most likely would have been bankruptcy.

This in favor of the creditors and later the court decided in favor. For creditors, a bankruptcy could be a solution when the outlook is so light that it seems the least of the two evils, but in this case the materials were more positive towards a continuation, at least from a financial standpoint. SEK 2,6B, or USD 330M) outweighs their liabilities (approx SEK 800M, or USD 100M) and there is a decent chance that NEVS 'stated intent to pay all their bills in full factual reality if in fact they'll stay in operation.

The Vänersborg announcements
Another reason is obviously the actual reorganization plan. I wrote about this in "Plan B"Earlier, and on the 8th Some additional details were shared by Lars-Eric Gustafsson and Mattias Bergman:

  • The current owners have invested around SEK 3 Billion / USD 390M.
  • There is sufficient reason to believe that the company wants to continue to do business and that no debts need to be written off.
  • There are four sources of income for NEVS during the reconstruction phase: the current owners, additional loans, and spare parts from the vehicle manufacturers.
  • Reasons for the financial issues include the very significant investments needed to develop electric vehicles and the fact that minority owner City of Qingdao required NEVS to build petrol cars, which wasn't foreseen in the original business plan. Qingdao committed to purchase a large quantity of these cars but unfortunately didn't follow through and never provided the promised SEK 1,1 Billion / USD 140M loan, which was the immediate cause of the payment difficulties.
  • Defense and security company SAAB AB suspended the license for NEVS to use the SAAB brand when the reconstruction process started. NEVS expects to be able to regain the rights.
  • NEVS has lost SEK 1,4 Billion / USD 180M since it acquired the assets from the SAAB Automobile bankruptcy estate in summer 2012.
  • As NEVS started to produce the 9-3 again, the SAAB Automobile bankruptcy estate became feared for the possible infringement of GM-owned patents, which has slowed down the negotiations between NEVS and the two Asian automotive manufacturers. This is the reason why the bankruptcy estate has been closed to nevs' real estate company, and in turn why nevs is unable to secure the required significant additional loans the financial difficulties and reconstruction.
  • NEVS has been negotiating with two Asian automotive manufacturers for several months. The two manufacturers are completing each other and each other over the last two weeks. The hope and expectation is that the contracts (supposedly 11 different ones) can be signed by the end of the deadline (29 November).
  • The Trollhattan has a capacity of 190,000 cars and the goal is to reach that volume.
  • The recent reduction of the staff by 155 workers was required to save significant cost.
  • Development for the model year 2016 version of the 9-3 had advanced well, but has been paused since the start of the financial difficulties.
  • The Phoenix platform is the key to future as NEVS is planning to launch four new models based on it and hence will be offering a broader product portfolio than SAAB Automobile ever had. The plan is to form a joint venture with one of the negotiation partners. This company is planning to make a “double digit billions” investment to start the production and to further develop the Phoenix platform as the basis for these future SAAB models, to be released two years after the agreement is signed. The platform will also be offered to other automotive manufacturers as the basis for their own cars.
  • "Plan A"Remains the main and preferred strategy, yet a"plan B"Is available. "B" just wants to turn into the main track if and when it does with the partners in "A" can not be within a reasonable time frame.
  • NEVS wants to be able to develop and manufacture complete cars for other brands.
  • Reorganization costs during October and November are calculated to be approx. SEK 35M / USD 4,5M per month.

So what is there something new?
Not really if you've read the preliminary reconstruction plan. What was in the viability of Lars-Eric Gustafsson and Mattias Bergman's plans.

What do I think? Not that it matters too much, but directionally I think the plans could make sense, assuming that the NEVS crown jewels (with the Phoenix platform in particular) are as attractive, powerful and flexible as we are made to believe.
Much has been written in the media about the work that needs to be done to rebuild the trust in the SAAB (car) brand, the design of the new models, the rebuilding of a reseller and service channel and much more. All true and important, but securing long-term investors / co-owners with very deep pockets

8 thoughts on "Företagsrekonstruktion"

  • Thank you for the detailed information abort the reconstruction process.

    But is it really so easy for NEVS to redesign the factory, so that every other car - or maybe different cars at the same timen - could be produced? Because for each new car new machines has to be build and installed.

    The second point is the platform. I can't really believe that this platform is interesting for bigger car manufacturers, because they all have their own. Therfore I think the license of the Phoenix platform is just for some smaller manufactors like Lotus or asian manufactors interesting (Not Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, ...). And I'm Not sure if this brings enough money.

    I really hope that plan a will work, Because with the current information i don't believe that we will get new Saab's when NEVS has to choose Plan b.

    • Many sources have consistently said that one of the advantages from the factory in Trollhättan is in fact that it is one of the most modern and flexible ones around. We've seen proof of this with all the different models (9-3 Sedan, Combi, Convertible, 9-5 Sedan and Combi) rolling off the single production line while in most other factories this would be a mission impossible. I'm sure that it will be quite an investment to adapt the factory to support multiple additional car platforms, and despite the fact it's not NEVS preferred option, it's possible and it seems viable.
      As to the question on whether Phoenix can be sold to other manufacturers, I think the answer is yes. The development of the base platform (that in turn can be the basis for many different models) is a multi-billion investment for any car manufacturer. Sharing a platform across brands has been done before and I again think this is viable. Does it have to be a major manufacturer in order to make it a success? I don't think so. There can be multiple but even PSA (Peugeot Citroën) has been rumored to be in talks. Another thought is the Chinese market. This may sound very unlikely for many at the moment, but when considering that only last week China surpassed the USA as the world's largest economy it gives a different perspective, especially on the mid- to long term.

  • Very good overview; gives hope that these plans can be materialized, the future is more solid than ever before.

  • Michél thank you for your very interesting sum-up. I am very curious for the presentation given on Wednesday. There are many reasons. Because the Presentation uses the Saab brand and maybe we want to hear some news? On the other side, I think Mahindra would not be a presentation and not Mr. Bergmann. Exciting times.

    • Thank you, skol.93. On the branding question, there are definitely a number of things that don't add up. If for example SAAB AB has completely suspended the right, then why is NEVS in all their official communications (including the presentation in Vänersborg) still using the logo ? Very inconsistent and might be an indication that the decision from SAAB AB isn't as black and white as it seems.
      My sense is that the key is to get the right long-term investors signed now. If they can provide the level of confidence and trust that SAAB AB requires to license the name back, I'm hopeful they will.
      In that context, Mahindra's role (assuming they are indeed one of the parties NEVS are negotiating with under “Plan A”) is interesting as they are in reported to be a significant partner to the Defense and Security SAAB.

  • Tack Michel, for a heltäckande and an interesting summary of the situation in Trollhättan. The lite can be changed. Saab är som katten, the har minst nio liv….
    It is very difficult to dig in the Bromölla i engen, en annars mycket trevlig tillställning med många både gamla och unga Saab entusiaster.
    // Edwin Punt, Borås

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