Friday, July 29, 2011

Antonov thwarted in attempts to buy into Saab

Vladimir Antonov, the Russian financier who General Motors vilified during its original deal to sell its beleaguered Swedish automotive marque Saab to Spyker Cars NV in 2009, has once again been used to block the ongoing attempts to save the troubled Automobile Manufacturer. As the European Investment Bank (EIB) has held firm upon its stance to block any involvements with Antonov in the restructuring of Swedish Automobiles NV, which a spokesman for Vladimir says has potentially cost Saab a loss of one Billion Kronor’s!

EIB says decision to block Antonov from Saab investment stands

As I’ll admit I know very little about the ‘Rooskie, asides from what I’ve read upon le Internetz... As Mr. Vladimir Antonov sounds like another Rich Cat trying his hand at diversifying his assets by delving into the breakneck automotive arena... So just what do we know about Messer Vladimir?

Joe Saward:
“The person to watch in all of this appears to be Russian banker Vladimir Antonov. He is into cars in a big way and owns the Spyker brand and is now producing Spykers via a company called CPP Manufacturing Ltd (Coventry Prototype Panels) in Coventry, England. He is also keen to acquire the Saab brand and seems to be aiming to take Saab rallying again once that deal is done. Antonov recently bought the commercial rights to the FIA World Rally Championship and most recently acquired a majority shareholding in the GPWeek, a free online publication that covers F1 and The WRC.
Antonov is an interesting individual. His grandfather Yuri was one of the pioneers of the Soviet atomic programme in the 1940s and his father Alexander worked in to the atomic industry. As a result Vladimir was born in Uzbekistan where his father worked in an uranium enrichment plant. He grew up in Tajikistan until moving in 1992 to attend the Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute. He realised soon afterwards that in the post-Soviet world banking was a better bet than being an engineer and switched to the Moscow Institute of Banking and started work with Sberbank in 1996. According to a report put together by Kroll, the international investigation company, he moved to the JSC Lefko Bank as chief economist a year later and soon became the head of the corporate securities department. The Russian financial crisis of 1998 wiped out a lot of financial institutions. He made Lefko $50 million by selling state treasury bonds before they became worthless and was paid a $5 million bonus as a result. He used $200,000 to buy 49 percent of Akademkhimbank, which was on the point of collapse. The bank was worth little beyond its licence. These were wild times in Russia and his the bank’s deputy chairman Semyon Ponomaryov (35) was gunned down and killed the following year.
Antonov managed to turn the Akademkhimbank bank around and in February 2003 he and his father Alexander acquired Conversbank. This had previously serviced state-owned companies belonging to the Ministry of Atomic Energy. Both the MDM group and Alfa Bank wanted to control it, in order to get its clients. MDM and Alfa finally split the assets and sold the bank itself. According to Kroll, Antonov acquired the bank simply because it allowed him to operate in foreign currencies and open operations abroad. He added other banks to the group in the years that followed and created a new holding company called Investbank, based in Kaliningrad.
There have long been allegations that he was involved in organised crime, something that he denies strenuously, saying that these stories have come about because some of the banks he has acquired had dubious histories and because of a campaign to discredit him by a former Russian Central Bank executive, who he outwitted in a takeover fight for a bank; and as the result of a “black PR campaign” orchestrated by individuals representing the Chechen Mafia, who tried to force him and his father to sell the Convers Group at a very low price. Antonov says that this was the reason that hit men tried to kill his father in Moscow in early 2009. The allegations about organised crime caused problems when he tried to buy Saab from General Motors. Kroll’s assessment is that the stories are not true.
Antonov has owned Bankas Snoras, an important Lithuanian bank, since 2003. His explanation for this is that he wanted to own a bank in the EU and Lithuania was due to enter the EU in 2004. The bank bought a British bank and applied to open a branch in the UK in 2007. This was refused at the time.
Last year Antonov sold his shares in Investbank and has been investing the money in other businesses, notably in the automotive and motorsport sectors, while continuing his banking operations with the Convers Group and with Snoras.”
(Source: Interesting trends and stories from F1 by Joe Saward)

Ironically, it seems that former Spyker Cars NV Chief Executive Officer Victor Muller should be the one being investigated – as to date he’s managed to run not one but two Automobile companies and a Formula 1team into the ground... As reputedly Antonov and Muller have had differences of opinion upon the Swedish Automakers direction in the past, yet the Russian now seems keen to invest a minority shareholding (less than 30% stake) in the new Swedish Automobiles NV – the latest owners of Saab.

Antonov has also gobbled up the Italian Automotive design firm Zagato recently, along with purchasing the Bowler Offroad Company in a separate deal and has previously loaned money to Renault F1. Thus, what better way to promote his Automotive brands (Empire) Spyker and Zagato by perhaps purchasing the faltering Renault F1 team? As after all its got a very promising Rooskie driver onboard and there’s something called the Russian Grand Prix on the Formula 1 calendar for 2014 around the Winter Olympics Black Seaside resort Sochi; Hmm? Perhaps he could rename it Spyker Zagato F1?

ButHey! Don’t get ‘Bowler-overed, (funny, eh?) Err go all Cattywompous on this Speculation – since after all, I’m NOT a “REAL” Journalist – DAMMIT Joe! I’m just a cut ‘N paste ‘Vurd Botcherer...