No cars -- this Saab hosts a slew of aerospace offerings. As of 2010, Saab divides its work into five areas: Aeronautics; Dynamics; Electronic Defense Systems; Security and Defense Solutions; and Support and Services. Its Aeronautics arm includes aerostructures (landing gear doors and flight controls), airborne systems (aircraft modification, command and control equipment) and unmanned aircraft. Security and Defense focuses on military/aerospace product support and logistics, as well as communications and surveillance systems. Other areas produce sensors, avionics, and electronic warfare and microwave systems. Saab serves military defense to civil security markets, netting more than 50% of its sales in Europe.
Saab also counts South Africa, Australia, and the US as important markets for its products and services. Despite the global economic downturn which dented demand for its commercial aircraft, Saab realized a slight increase in sales in 2009 over 2008, attributable to the positive effects of exchange rates for the SEK. The company also managed to recover from its deficit sustained in 2008, triggered by losses in commercial aviation and defense-related projects; in 2009 it reported positive earnings, albeit more than 60% less than its record-setting high in 2007.
Among Saab's opportunities, Swedish defense, as well as foreign militaries and civil security entities, are focusing more and more on network-based defense systems, which enable armies and security forces to communicate and coordinate resources against increasingly unpredictable threats. The company is poised to benefit from its largest high-tech lines, the Gripen fighter aircraft, missile systems, and electronic warfare systems. At the behest of the Swedish government, for example, Saab maintains the Gripen, which is part of a larger air combat system that works with other air, sea, and land systems. The company's portfolio of interoperable, standardized products and services is supported by a joint venture, Saab Ericsson Network Based Defence Innovation, formed with Ericsson.
In addition to research and development of its products and systems, which consumes around 20% of revenues, Saab builds upon a number of new technology acquisitions and divestments. In 2011 the company agreed to purchase US-based Sensis Corporation. The $155 million deal garners an established supplier of air traffic management services and surveillance offerings and promises to bolster Saab's North American presence as well as its product portfolio with a variety of defense systems development capabilities. Saab earlier in the year targeted E-COM, a Czech company that makes virtual simulators. E-COM joins Saab's training and simulation unit, a core business commanding a rich international roster of customers, particularly in Europe. E-COM continues as a separate business entity. Saab plans to make the Czech Republic a base for its operations, as it moves into Central and Eastern European countries.
The company is led by a fresh face, Håkan Buskhe, who took the reins as president and CEO of Saab in late 2010. He replaces Åke Svensson, newly appointed president of the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries. Buskhe is the former CEO of Sweden-based energy firm E.ON Sweden and president of E.ON Nordic -- both subsidiaries of Germany's multi-utility company E.ON AG.
Ownership has shifted, too. Significant stakeholders in Saab are Swedish investment firm Investor AB, and UK defense group BAE Systems. In May 2010 Investor AB increased its stake to about 30% (corresponding to nearly 40% voting rights), by purchasing half of BAE Systems' holdings for approximately $150 million. As a result BAE Systems owns a little more than 10% in the Swedish defense business, which it plans to eventually sell. BAE's divestment falls hard on the heels of pleading guilty to several charges made by the US Justice Department, including intent to defraud.