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Aston Martin's Kuwaiti investors are reportedly looking at selling their shares in the company. But at $800 million, Investment Dar could have trouble finding a new buyer.
Once a bastion of niche carmakers, Britain's auto industry has been scooped up piecemeal by foreign investors. Bentley is owned by the Volkswagen Group, Rolls-Royce and Mini by BMW, Lotus by Malaysia's Proton, Jaguar and Land Rover by India's Tata. The last hold-out, you might say, is Aston Martin, but while the Gaydon-based purveyor of luxury GTs isn't allied with a major automaker anymore, the majority of its shares are owned by Kuwaiti investors. That situation could change, however, if the latest reports are any indication.
According to BloombergBusinessweek, Aston's majority shareholder Investment Dar is looking to offload its shares in the British automaker. The question is who would be interested in buying. As the global auto industry began rapidly consolidating in the 1990s, Ford bought Aston Martin (along with Jaguar and Land Rover), but when fortunes began turning for the worse in Detroit, Ford divested from Aston, selling it to a consortium led by David Richards (whose Prodrive company had handled Aston's racing program for years). The majority of the buyout was financed by Investment Dar, which subsequently held most of the shares.
The Kuwaiti company, however, is in the midst of restructuring its assets, compelling it to divest (much like Ford did in 2007) itself of its interests in Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. According to the report, there are two prospective buyers. One is Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian automaker that could, like its rival Tata, be looking to acquire a storied British auto marque. The other is Toyota, which has been closely allied with Aston these past few years. Its CEOs very publicly swapped cars at the Nurburgring last year and partnered on Aston's Cygnet program, which is essentially a luxified Toyota iQ.
Toyota has reportedly undertaken a week-long study to evaluate the prospect of buying Aston Martin, but has yet to announce any further steps. The one stumbling block either potential suitor could be facing, however, is the price. Investment Dar is reportedly seeking a whopping $800 million for its 64% stake in Aston Martin, which represents the lion's share of the $925 million which the consortium paid for all of Aston just five years ago. If a new owner can be found, however - especially a major automaker like Toyota - Aston could find the backing it so desperately needs to fund further development of new products.