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Author Topic: Aston Martin for sale  (Read 1189 times)

Offline Wizzo

Aston Martin for sale
« on: September 02, 2006, 10:38:10 AM »

Ford is to sell Aston Martin -- mere weeks after AM announced it had turned a profit for the first time in 40 years.

The Blue Oval said it was "exploring strategic options with particular emphasis on a potential sale of all or a portion of the unit". It folllows speculation that Jaguar might also go under the hammer.

AM has gone from strength to strength in recent years, thanks to inspired design, excellent engineering in the form of its VH platform, and shrewd marketing of the AM brand. But despite being profitable, this news means uncertainty for AM staff at Gaydon and Newport Pagnell.

The problem is that Ford, one of the oldest carmakers, continues to haemorrhage cash -- it would be foolish if it didn't look into the possibilities of selling loss-making assets. According to Business Week: "Ford is facing the reality that its market share and profit outlook is falling much faster than it can possibly bring new products to market."

Ford has 100 plants and 300,000 employees round the world; from the point of view of Ford's accountants in Dearborn, Michigan, AM is tiny. It's highly visible but as a balance sheet item, it hardly counts.

Yet that visibility could help it raise a substantial price. One American automotive analyst reckoned that AM could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to AM's prestige value. "It's a very large billboard with James Bond on it that is a serious marketing tool. It's a prestige name that a Peugeot or a Fiat might be interested in," he said. Another, Philippe Houchois, motor analyst at JPMorgan, estimated Astonís value at about £270 million.

And Ford believes it's worth money too, as the auction tag for AM is pencilled in at a whopping $2 billion.

Who will buy? According to the FT, talks with interested parties are already underway. Ford's been talking to Jac Nasser, once the Ford CEO and now a partner at One Equity, the private equity arm of JPMorgan. Sir Anthony Bamford, boss at the resurgence digger company JCB, said he wanted to buy Jaguar but wasn't interested in Aston Martin.

It could be a great opportunity, with hindsight -- depending on the buyer. What often happens when companies get sold however, is that a venture capital company buys, strips the assets to make it more profitable, and sells it on at a profit.

In AM's case, this would not work, as it's the bespoke and rare nature of the cars that makes the marque so valuable. Automate and mass produce, and the brand value evaporates. Ford must find the right buyer...



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