Geely and Stroll in final talks to invest in Aston Martin - report

2 February 2020 - autocar

Geely and Stroll in final talks to invest in Aston Martin - report

Aston calls emergency board meeting to weigh up offers, the Financial Times claims

Chinese car maker Geely and billionaire Lawrence Stroll are in final talks to invest in Aston Martin, according to a report by the Financial Times.

It reports that offers to invest around £200m for an approximate 20% stake in Aston are being weighed up at an emergency board meeting that has been convened this evening. A final decision is expected by early next week, but could come as soon as tomorrow (Friday) morning.

Geely is also the owner of Lotus and Volvo, a part-owner of Smart and a significant shareholder in Daimler. It's interest is said to be spurred by the potential to share parts with Lotus. It has also been mentioned in connection with a possible - separate - shareholding in the Mercedes F1 team, potentially in league with Stroll.

It has also been previously suggested that Geely's involvement may not preclude billionaire Lawrence Stroll's mooted investment; he is also said to be in advanced talks with the firm, and reported to be seeking a 20% stake in it for around £200m.

Stroll, father of Formula 1 driver Lance and owner of the Racing Point F1 team, is estimated to be worth in excess of £2 billion, having made his money investing and building up brands including Pierre Cardin, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Asprey and Garrard.

He is also famed for his car collection, which is most notable for including what many regard as the most valuable collection of classic Ferraris in the world.

Both his business interests and car collection are reported to have given him the contacts to head a consortium looking to take control of Aston Martin, in the belief they can take advantage of its current low stock value and lower than expected sales prior to building the brand's equity up again in future years, most notably by taking advantage of anticipated sales for the recently launched Aston Martin DBX SUV. Aston confirmed it has received 1800 pre-orders for the DBX, but deliveries do not begin until mid-2020.

Aston Martin confirmed that it was in talks with potential investors late last year, following a story broken by Autocar and RaceFans.net, which first revealed interest in the firm from Stroll. Both the Racing Point F1 team and Aston Martin currently have bases at Silverstone, although Aston's headquarters are in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Aston, Stroll and Geely have not commented on the latest reports.

The majority of Aston's shares are currently held by the Kuwait-based Adeem/Primewagon group, while the Strategic European Investment Group, part of the Italian private equity group Investindustrial, currently holds around a one-third holding in the company. Mercedes parent Daimler also owns 4% of the firm - as well as supplying engines to the Racing Point F1 team owned by Stroll.

Both Geely and Lawrence Stroll have so far declined to comment on any of the reports.

The firm has come under intense scrutiny since floating in 2018, with a valuation of around £4.5bn. Today the share price has fallen by around 80% from that point.

Earlier this year Aston issued an unexpected profit warning due to "challenging trading conditions". Revealing the firm sold 5819 cars in 2019, 7% down on 2018, chief executive Andy Palmer said Aston had suffered a "very disappointing year [in 2019]".

"The challenging trading conditions highlighted in November continued through the peak delivery period of December resulting in lower sales, higher selling costs and lower margins," said Palmer.

As a result Palmer said that Aston's earnings margin for 2019 will be 12.5-13.5 per cent. Last summer it issued a warning that the margin would be 20%, triggering a substantial fall in its stock price. Palmer added that adjusted earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation will be £130-140m, around £60m below expectations.

Palmer also revealed Aston spent more on marketing and underwriting finance than previously.

"Whilst we are disappointed with trading performance in 2019, our focus is now on revitalising the business, launching DBX and ensuring profitable growth in the medium-term," added Palmer.

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