Saab Has More Debt Than Assets, And Less Luck Than You

By Blake Z. Rong | April 13, 2012
There's an old TV commercial, circa 2006 or so, where cheery suburbanite Stanley Johnson proclaims to be living the good life—he's got a great family, a four-bedroom house, a new car and a country-club membership, before proudly affirming, "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs!" Saab is up to debt to its headlight washers as well, but it's certainly less cheery about it, simply because the stakes are much higher. How bad is it at Saab? The company owes a not-insubstantial $2 billion, but all of its assets—every little thing that Saab owns, from the factories to the offices to the unsold inventory to the die-stamping machines to the paper clips to the desks that haven't been bolted down yet—are worth less than a third of that, or just $532 million. Where's Danny Ocean's crew when you need him? According to Saab's bankruptcy administrator Hans Bergvist, Saab owes about $1.9 billion, which is roughly the amount of money that Ford CEO Alan Mullaly keeps in his trousers to tip valets. Saab owes its largest chunk to its fosterlandet, Sweden, a sum of $388 million; it owes its former adopters General Motors $107 million, a move that probably doesn't cover the amount of medication for Victor Muller's impending ulcers. Lastly, Saab's employees, the trolls at Trollhättan are owed $89 million. They can't complain. They've had plenty of time to get used to not getting paid.
Like a rusting 99 Turbo with a cracked manifold sitting in a New Hampshire forest, Saab doesn't appear to make for a very convincing project. Still, there are some people who want to buy Saab,  not just a Saab: a company that's already declared itself bankrupt, a black hole of a conglomerate that seems to suck everyone down with debt up to their eyeballs. The list of suitors (which presumably looks like the line of angry passengers in Airplane!) are more diverse than the bar across the street from the UN and include Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra, eager Chinese admirer Zhejiang Youngman, Turkish Brightwell HoldingsBMWa Japanese-Chinese consortium, Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and me—I've got about $3.14 worth of change in my pocket and some Twizzlers, so let's make a deal happen. Have your people call my people, Muller. I'd like a 9-4X. Source: Wall Street Journal