Stroll takes pole position in Aston Martin rescue
Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll will head a financial rescue of Aston Martin, James Bond's favourite carmaker said Friday, under a deal that sees it rebrand Formula One team Racing Point.
Stroll, whose son Lance drives for his Racing Point team, has agreed to partly fund a £500-million ($657 million) lifeline for Aston Martin Lagonda, whose stellar progress ahead of its 2018 stock market debut has crashed spectacularly on weak global demand linked to China's slowdown and Brexit.
"The Racing Point F1 team will become the Aston Martin F1 works team with effect from the 2021 season," Aston Martin said in a statement.
"This agreement is for a 10-year initial term."
Aston Martin said it would continue to sponsor the Red Bull Formula One team for the upcoming 2020 season.
A consortium led by Stroll will inject £182 million into Aston, the maker of luxury sports cars that play a starring role in the 007 spy films.
In return, Stroll gains a 20-percent stake in the group and becomes its executive chairman, replacing Penny Hughes.
Aston Martin plans to raise a further £318 million via a rights issue supported by its major shareholders.
- 'James Bond cachet' -
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said that while “Stroll is planning to use the Aston Martin name, with all its James Bond cachet, for his F1 team", the carmaker “will look to address its problems by limiting production to prioritise demand over supply and support prices, fully launching its SUV model DBX and slashing costs".
Investors toasted the news, sending Aston Martin's share price soaring 21 percent to 487 pence in London.
The departing Hughes said the company had no choice but to seek out urgent help.
"The difficult trading performance in 2019 resulted in severe pressure on liquidity which has left the company with no alternative but to seek substantial additional equity financing," she said in Friday's statement.
"Without this the balance sheet is not robust enough to support the operations of the group."
Hughes added: "Notwithstanding recent weak trading, the strength of the Aston Martin brand and our expanding portfolio of cars has allowed us to attract a strong new partner in Mr Stroll to support the turnaround of the business."
Stroll said his investment "underpins the company's financial security".
He added: "I, and my partners, firmly believe that Aston Martin is one of the great global luxury car brands.
"I believe that this combination of capital and my experience of both the motor industry and building highly successful global brands will mean that, over time, we fulfil Aston Martin Lagonda's potential," said Stroll.
- 'No time to die' -
Aston Martin, one of the few remaining British carmakers in a sector that is largely foreign owned, is cherished by Hollywood actors, global sports stars and British royalty.
Fictional superspy Bond's carmaker of choice had made its debut in 1964 film 'Goldfinger' and more recently featured in 2015's 'Spectre'.
The brand features once more in the latest instalment, "No Time to Die", due out this year.
A trailer shows sharp-suited Bond, played by British actor Daniel Craig, evading capture in his Aston Martin sports car and jumping off a viaduct.
Founded in a small London workshop, Aston transformed into an ultra-luxury brand whose classic car owners include heir to the British throne Prince Charles.
However the 106-year-old company -- now based in Gaydon in central England -- has a troubled history and has declared itself bankrupt multiple times in the past.
"Having been no stranger to bankruptcy... the company’s board will have been fully aware of the stakes following a disastrous 2019 which made a mockery of the company’s £4.0 billion valuation at IPO" in October 2018, added analyst Mould.
By Friday, Aston Martin was worth £1.11 billion.
In a bid to support sliding sales, the group in November unveiled its first sports utility vehicle (SUV) and signalled it was banking on China's appetite for luxury to prop up sales.
© 2020 AFP