Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tiny Dutch car maker Spyker buys Saab

Money was apparently not the problem in the takeover of Saab by the small Dutch car company Spyker.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller told Dutch public radio today that the amount of money involved was not an issue. The problem was getting the Swedish company's owner General Motors to reverse its decision to run down the Saab brand.

He added that he does not regard the takeover of such a large company as an unacceptable risk and he hopes the shareholders will back him. Mr Muller intends to make Saab profitable again by emphasizing its exclusive character. In recent years, he says, Saabs have begun to look too much like Opels.

It is not the first time Muller, who revived the Spyker brand a decade ago, surprised the world with his optimism and unlimited energy. When Spyker was losing money in 2006, he bought a Formula 1 team for tens of millions of euros in a disastrous attempt to put his company on the map internationally. But negative publicity, investor walk-outs and troubles with the Dutch stock-market watchdog did little to steer Muller from his path.

Spyker’s purchase of a Formula 1 racing team in 2006, got the company deeper in already existing of financial trouble and made Muller collide with fellow shareholders, investors and journalists. He stood down as CEO in May 2007, but returned seven months later.

Some fun facts:
Spyker last year produced 43 cars, at an average price of 200,000 euros, with little over 100 employees. At its peak, Saab made over 100,000 cars and it currently employs 3,400. What's the difference...

The acquisition was hailed by politicians in Sweden, where Saab’s closing could have put 8,000 people (employers, car dealers and suppliers) out of work. The Swedish government, awaiting parliamentary elections later this year, did everything it could to prevent that.

More ant-semitism in the Netherlands

Today is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camp Auschwitz. But anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is on the rise, partly as a result of last year’s Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. According to the Centre for Information and Documentation Israel, the figures have doubled, with 250 reports of anti-Semitism in 2009. “That is a lot considering the size of the Jewish community.” says Peter Rodriguez from the Anne Frank Foundation.

A Dutch newspaper describes how a 22-year-old was sworn at and beaten up in 2008. The case caused a commotion when it turned out that the police didn’t have time to take a statement from the young man. The fact that no-one was ever prosecuted has not improved feelings in the Jewish community. Jewish people feel increasingly discriminated against. Rabbi Raphael Evers tells the paper “My mother says it is worse than during the Second World War.” Mainly because of the growing Muslim population, Jewish people feel uncormfortable as they are often the target of Muslm youth.

But there is hope: children from Jewish secondary schools in Amsterdam are told to ask their grandparents for their stories about the Second World War. They are impressed when they see their own names on a wall commemorating those who were deported to Westerbork transit camp during the German occupation of the Netherlands. And that a Muslim school in Rotterdam has even adopted a war monument, the first ever Islamic school in the Netherlands to do so. The headmaster explains, “We tell the parents, without understanding Dutch history, you cannot live in this country.”

Day Opening - January 27