Swedish defense group Saab AB said it understood the Australian government wished to negotiate about Saab's stake in the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), though it had not been officially informed. Saab acquired the 49 percent ASC stake during a consolidation of the Swedish defense industry last year.
As part of the shake-up Saab intends to transfer the holding to Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft
(HDW), a major producer of conventionally powered submarines which now controls the Swedish Kockums naval shipyard. "We understand the Australian government has taken a decision to negotiate with us about the ASC stake, which they have a pre-emptive right to do," Saab senior executive vice-president Lars Josefsson said. Josefsson said he was unaware of any official approach to date, and declined to place a value on the ASC shareholding.
"We recognize that the (ASC) transfer to HDW requires the consent of the Australian government," he added. Apart from the European stake, ASC is owned 48.5 percent by the government-controlled Australian Industry Development Corporation and 2.5 percent by a construction company.
The Australian government said it intends to retain the state's options in relation to ownership and control of ASC, which makes Collins class submarines. This did not rule out any options for ownership of ASC, including the possibility of HDW taking an equity stake.