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Aston Martin reportedly up for sale

Bloomberg says majority investor has retained a firm to investigate a possible sale.

By Douglas Newcomb Nov 12, 2012 12:48PM

Even though Aston Martin is being buoyed by yet another appearance in a popular James Bond movie -- "Skyfall" grossed more than $87 million on its opening weekend -- the future of the luxury car company may not be as successful.

Current-year sales are flat, and Bloomberg reported on Friday -- the same day the film opened -- that Investment Dar Co. of Kuwait, the majority owner of Aston Martin with a 64 percent stake, is looking to sell its share of the company. Another Kuwaiti firm, Adeem Investment, is part of Aston's majority share but reportedly is not part of the sale process.

According to Bloomberg, London investment bank Rothschild’s had been retained by Investment Dar to investigate the possible sale. Bloomberg also reported that Investment Dar’s asking price is about equal to that of its initial investment.

Five sources were quoted as the basis for the report, although Bloomberg said it couldn't publicly identify them. When MSN Autos asked Aston Martin spokesman Matthew Clarke to comment, his reply was short and sweet: “No plans for a sale."

As part of a group of investors, Investment Dar bought Aston Martin from Ford in 2007. The sale was overseen by Prodrive, which had no financial involvement but runs Aston Martin’s race team. Investment Dar also bought a 40 percent stake in Prodrive. John Sinders, a Texas banker and Aston enthusiast, was part of the original buyout but sold his shares in 2008.

At the time of the purchase, Investment Dar’s stake was estimated to have been worth $805 million. But in 2009, Investment Dar missed a payment on a $100 million bond, and the company agreed in February 2011 to a $4.9 billion reorganization. Aston Martin also laid off a third of its 1,850 workers in 2008.

With Investment Dar in financial straits in recent years, resources for development of future models remain uncertain. The Bloomberg report also said Toyota and Indian vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra have expressed interest in Aston Martin. But a Toyota spokeswoman in Japan said the automaker had no comment, while a spokesman from Mahindra & Mahindra could not be reached. (It does seem logical: Mahindra's Indian competition Tata Motors owns Jaguar Land Rover, while Aston's tiny city car, the Cygnet, is based on the Scion iQ.)

Sounds like a plot for the next Bond movie.

[Source: Bloomberg via The New York Times]

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