Press Report : Kuwait’s Dar says it’s studying offers for Aston Martin

Automotive News Europe, 15th December, 2008

KUWAIT (Reuters) — Kuwait’s Investment Dar said on Sunday it was considering offers to sell up to 20 percent of British carmaker Aston Martin and is seeking to borrow up to 300 million dinars ($1 billion) to refinance debt. The investment firm, which bought half of Aston Martin in 2007, is studying offers to sell a 10 to 20 percent stake in the carmaker on behalf of itself and some of its partners, executive vice-president Amr Abou El-Seoud said.

“We have offers … we are in talks but the (sale) should be value-added whether financially or technically,” Seoud told Reuters. “We are not considering selling and exiting. It (could) be a maximum 10 to 20 percent of the company to be taken out of all investors, in other words, Dar’s dilution might be in 5 to 10 percent,” he said. “There is a 60 to 70 percent chance that we will reach a deal soon.” Seoud declined to identify possible buyers or give a reason for the sale but said Dar could also sell shares in the luxury carmaker to the public within three to five years.

Aston Martin, famously associated with fictional British secret agent James Bond, was bought from Ford Motor last year by a consortium including Formula 1 specialist David Richards and Investment Dar for 479 million pounds. The company said earlier this month it would cut up to 600 jobs in Britain as car sales continue to be hit by the downturn in the world economy.

The world’s largest carmakers have reported billions of dollars in loss and announced thousands of job cuts. Despite the crisis, Seoud sees it as the right time to bring a strategic technical partner into the British carmaker. “Yes, I might sacrifice today some of my future profit but I’ll get today a better benefit and support from a technical partner,” he said.

Refinancing debt

Seoud also denied an al-Qabas newspaper report on Sunday that Dar had mortgaged banking and real estate assets, including its 19.2 percent stake in Boubyan Bank, with Commercial Bank of Kuwait (CBK) to secure financing. Investment Dar was in talks with several banks, including CBK, for loans to help it refinance short-term debt, he said. “Ideally we should be seeking around 200 million dinars to 300 million dinars from banks,” Seoud said. “There is nothing finalized yet.”

Last month Kuwait’s government reached a deal with banks to provide loans to investment firms hit by the financial crisis. Kuwait is also setting up a bailout fund for investment firms to help them cope with the crisis after the Gulf Arab state was forced to step in and rescue Gulf Bank after it lost 375 million dinars on derivatives dealings.

Dar’s stock, which has lost about 77 percent of its value this year, closed up 5.81 percent on Sunday.

[Source: Automotive News Europe]

Clive Goldthorp

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