Saab Group president Bengt Halse has moved to quash speculation that the Swedish group may dispose of its civil-aircraft business, although it has taken a heavy charge to pay for market "repositioning" of the Saab 2000.

Presenting Saab Aircraft's financial results, Halse said that the turboprop business is "an integral and important part of Saab", claiming that it has "the cleanest and strongest balance sheet in the regional-aircraft industry". He pledges that the company will make the "maximum" effort to take advantage of the market upturn.

The comments, backed by Saab's owner, the Investor group, appear aimed at quashing speculation of a pending tie-up with the Aero International (Regional)venture as it prepares to launch a new regional-jet family.

Saab Aircraft's sales were down by 14%at SKr2.9 billion ($395 million) in 1996. Orders were up marginally for the Saab 340 at 32, leaving a year-end backlog of 31, while another seven orders were received for the Saab 2000, giving a backlog of 11.

The Saab Group, which includes the defence businesses, also took a write-down of SKr1.2 billion to cover development and start-up costs of the Saab 2000, as well as customer commitments made on the aircraft. That left the company showing an operating loss of SKr908 million on sales of over SKr8.2 million.

Source: Flight International