Despite questions being raised about the future of Lotus in the days following Dany Bahar’s suspension from the company, Proton and parent company DRB-Hicom have confimed that the company is not for sale. Following an operational review, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus plc, Dany Bahar was temporarily suspended from his role to facilitate an investigation into a complaint about his conduct made by Lotus’ penultimate parent company, DRB-HICOM Berhad.
In Mr Bahar’s absence, Dato’ Lukman Ibrahim, Mr Mohd Khalid Yusof and Mr Aslam Farikullah (representatives of Lotus’ parent companies) have been authorised by Group Lotus plc’s board to handle and conduct the day-to-day management and affairs of the Lotus Group. They will be assisted by Mr Rusman Zaihan. They have been authorised to take up these duties during the suspension period.
Proton also reiterated that its holding company DRB-HICOM Berhad (DRB-HICOM) is not selling Lotus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PROTON, despite the recent media reports on speculation and rumours coming from unreliable sources on the purported intent to sell. According to Executive Chairman of Proton Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil, ‘We acknowledge that Lotus can provide value to PROTON. Lotus is an iconic brand with global presence and positioning, coupled with unsurpassed engineering expertise and a talented workforce.’
Earlier this month, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil visited Lotus facilities at Hethel in Norfolk, UK. In conjunction with the visit, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil also had constructive meetings with South Norfolk MP Mr Richard Bacon and British Business Secretary, Mr Vince Cable. Commenting on the meetings, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil said, ‘They were both very supportive of our views and developments with regard to the future plans for Lotus. And subsequent to the meetings, the British Government has agreed to consider reactivating the £10 million Regional Growth Fund pledge to support Lotus’s vehicle development plans in Norfolk.’
According to Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil, ‘Both Proton and DRB-HICOM will continue to review the existing business plans and financial position of Lotus in taking Lotus forward in the immediate- to medium-term. DRB-HICOM has sent in a team comprising local and international consultants to Lotus from March 2012 to conduct an operations and legal audit on Lotus group of companies.’
The need for this review is especially pertinent in light of the existing financial obligation of Lotus in the form of a £270 million syndicated loan taken at the end of 2010, for which Proton has given its corporate guarantee.
The announcement should help calm the waters at Hethel and dampen speculation across the media about the future of Lotus, and its production in the UK. A spokesman for Lotus told AROnline at the recent Beijing motor show that the cars are in huge demand there. ‘We’ve taken orders or 190 cars since December, and we can’t get them quick enough.’ He added, ‘Chinese customers want British cars, and Lotus’ continued production in the UK is central to the marque’s success here.’