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Swedish report Swedish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-09-12 07:22:05
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Sweden declines Saab request for protection

The outlook for Saab Automobile darkened Thursday when a court rejected the iconic Swedish carmaker's filing for protection from creditors while it seeks short-term loans. The Vanersborg District Court in southern Sweden said it wasn't clear how Saab would line up financing to maintain its operations, which had been halted for much of this year. Saab said it would appeal. Thursday's ruling clears the way for unpaid suppliers and labor unions representing Saab's 3,700 employees to petition for the carmaker's insolvency. Saab had filed Wednesday for court approval to conduct a "voluntary reorganization."

Similar to a bankruptcy process, it would shield Saab from creditors until the automaker lined up bridge financing or received promised investments from two new Chinese partners.  Pang Da Automobile Trade, China's largest vehicle distributor, and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile, a private manufacturer, agreed in June to pay $340 million for a combined 53.9 percent of Saab, pending Chinese regulatory approval. Saab expects the investment to come through in four to six weeks, said Tim Colbeck, president of Saab Cars North America, based in Royal Oak. But analysts are doubtful. A previous deal with China's Hawtai collapsed in May after it was denied approval. "Even though the Chinese want technology, they want a viable enterprise," said Michael Robinet, Northville-based vice president of global forecasting at IHS Automotive.

"Given its current situation, Saab's long-term viability is very challenged," he said. Saab was counting on the Chinese funds to help finance the development of platforms for one smaller and two larger vehicles. Its sales sank to 28,284 vehicles last year, down from a peak of 132,000 in 2006. Saab's U.S. sales totalled just 5,400 in 2010, down from an all-time high of 48,000 in 2003. The onetime General Motors subsidiary has been unprofitable for years.  GM sold it last year to Swedish Automobile N.V., a Dutch firm formerly called Spyker Cars. Victor Muller, chief executive of both Saab and Swedish Automobile, told the Financial Times that the carmaker was seeking debtor-in-possession financing of between 50 million and 100 million euro, or $70 million to $140 million — an amount that would allow Saab to restart production, which has been halted since early June.

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Half of Sweden's road fatalities failed to buckle up


Every other person killed in a traffic accident with cars, trucks or busses in urban areas was not wearing a seatbelt, reported the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), after analysing all fatal accidents over the past five years. "Without a belt, you can handle a collision going roughly 7 kilometres per hour, at best, providing you're prepared for the collision and strong enough to hold on," Bengt Svensson of the National Police Agency (Rikspolisstyrelsen) said in a statement.
The Transport Administration believes better information is needed about the impact of driving without seatbelts at low speeds. "There is still ignorance about how important seatbelts are, even at low speed," said the Administration's traffic safety director Claes Tingvall.

"It's hard to explain the low usage any other way. The belt is there, takes only a few seconds to buckle, and costs nothing to use," he said. Professional drivers are most careless when it comes to buckling up, according to a survey conducted by the National Society for Road Safety (Nationalföreningen för trafiksäkerhetens främjande - NTF). "In heavy vehicles, such as large trucks, just under half of the drivers use their seatbelts," said NTF's CEO Jan Sandberg to daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

NTF is planning to conduct information campaigns promoting seatbelt use throughout the country, and the police will be tightening their checks on belt use between 12-18 September. Sweden has had a law enforcing the use of seatbelts since 1975, and failure to buckle up can result in a fine of up to 1500 kronor ($230).

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More millions for Swedish synagogue security


The Swedish government has promised new funds to help boost security around the country's synagogues following accusations that Sweden hasn't done enough to protect it's Jewish population. The government's autumn budget, set to be released on September 20th, includes 4 million kronor ($622,000) in new spending to “increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority”, according to a statement from integration minister Erik Ullenhag. “Anti-Semitic remarks and other negative treatment based on racist assumptions is never acceptable in a democratic society,” Ullenhag said in a statement.

The money, which is a one-time expenditure for 2012, is meant to send an important signal that Sweden takes anti-Semitism seriously following accusations that the country wasn't doing enough to protect its Jewish population. In December 2010, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre issued a warning to Jews advising them to avoid travelling to southern Sweden.

“We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations Centre, said in a statement.  In addition, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has urged Sweden to do more to fight anti-Semitism. Speaking with the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper, Ullenhag said he was “disappointed” that Sweden has been viewed as not doing enough for its Jewish minority.


       
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