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Sweden OKs Saab Plan

Sweden's government gave ailing automaker Saab the green light to raise cash by selling its real estate to a Russian businessman and leasing it back.

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Sweden's government on Friday gave ailing automaker Saab the green light to raise cash by selling its real estate to a Russian businessman and leasing it back.

Saab, sold by General Motors Co. last year to Dutch company Spyker, needs money to pay suppliers and restart its plant in southwestern Sweden, where work has been suspended since last week.

Spyker needs Sweden's approval for its plans because the government provided guarantees for Saab's euro400 million ($580 million) loan from the European Investment Bank.

Industry minister Maud Olofsson told reporters Friday the government has no problems with the plan to let Saab sell subsidiary Saab Automobile Property, which owns the car factory.

However, she said certain conditions must be fulfilled, including a thorough review of the prospective buyer, Russian multimillionaire banker Vladimir Antonov, and that the payments are made through a bank that he doesn't control.

As part of the deal, Saab's loan from the European Investment Bank will be lowered to euro280 million, Olofsson said.

Antonov used to be part-owner of Spyker but was forced out by GM during the sale of Saab amid reports of alleged money laundering. He has denied those allegations and has never been charged.

Antonov has also applied to become part-owner in Saab. Olofsson said no decision had been made yet on his application.

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