x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Aston Martin hopes word is Bond

Aston Martin is in 'advanced' talks to sell new shares to investors to boost funding for development.

James Bond will probably be as quietly confident of the future of his beloved Aston Martin marque as he is of his Walther PPK.

It was revealed yesterday that the British luxury-car maker controlled by Investment Dar is in "advanced" talks to sell new shares to investors to boost funding for development.

The proposed plan will ensure the company can "deliver its medium and long-term growth plans", said Janette Green, an Aston Martin spokeswoman.

But analysts wondered who the brand might appeal to. "The main question that you have to ask at Aston Martin is, 'Who is ready to invest any further?,'" said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, the director of the Centre for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

"There are clearly some people but it seems the existing shareholders are not among them."

Kuwaiti owner Investment Dar has received competing bids from Investindustrial and Mahindra & Mahindra for half the sports-car maker led by Ulrich Bez, the chief executive, three people familiar with the offers said last week. Investindustrial, a European private-equity fund based in London, offered just under £250 million (Dh1.47 billion), with the Indian car maker Mahindra then making a higher bid, they said.

Investment Dar, part of the group that bought Aston Martin from Ford for £503m in 2007, has been seeking an investor for Aston Martin, the maker of luxury sports cars featured in James Bond movies, for months, people familiar with the matter said this month. The talks have the support of Aston Martin's owners, Ms Green said yesterday.

The winning bidder would get 50 per cent of voting rights and a 40 per cent equity stake, one of the people said. While the Mahindra bid is higher, Investindustrial includes plans to use technology and car parts from AMG, the Mercedes-Benz unit that makes sports cars, two of the people said.

Although Aston Martin still gets engines from Ford, it lost access to Ford's other resources after the sale and remains the only global luxury brand that is not part of a larger car group.

That independence could be a handicap with the car industry under pressure to develop technologies to improve fuel efficiency. BMW is investing more than €1bn (Dh4.76bn) this year on making engines more efficient and developing electric vehicles. That sum exceeds Aston Martin's revenue last year of £507m.

A new backer for the renowned British brand may help the maker of the £1.2m One-77 to boost volumes and develop cars that can challenge Volkswagen's Bentley and Fiat's Ferrari. Investindustrial this year sold the Italian motorcycle maker Ducati to VW's Audi.

Most of Aston Martin's models are based on the same aluminium platform introduced with the DB9 coupe in 2003 under Ford. An inability to invest in new architectures has hampered other independent car makers, with Saab, the Swedish brand sold by General Motors in February 2010, forced to halt production last year because of a cash shortage.

Volkswagen, Europe's biggest car maker, is able to keep development and production costs down by sharing architectures across its units. The Lamborghini Gallardo shares the same platform as the Audi R8, while the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and GT models are based on the same underpinnings as the VW Phaeton.

Aston Martin's line-up mostly comprises two-door coupes such as the DB9, Vanquish and Vantage. The Cygnet city car, which it also offers, is based on Toyota's iQ. Aston Martin vehicles have been featured in 11 James Bond movies, including the vintage silver DB5 in the latest one, Skyfall.

"Aston Martin is a strong brand, with great tradition, which has developed enormously under [Mr] Bez's leadership but it needs investment to expand its market position," said Mr Dudenhoeffer.