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Geely’s Li eyes bigger Aston Martin stake

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,Technology sharing: Billionaire Li is interested in raising the shareholding in Ashton Martin to close to 10%. — Bloomberg

BEIJING: Chinese billionaire Li Shufu is considering boosting his stake in Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc over time to foster collaboration with the struggling luxury carmaker, according to sources.

Li, whose Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co acquired a 7.6% stake in the quintessentially British brand last month, is interested in raising that shareholding close to 10% in the future, the sources said.

Such a move could pave the way for more sharing of technology and electrification know-how.

Geely’s considerations are at an early stage and it could opt to stay at the current shareholding level, the sources said.

Any attempt to gain too much control could run into opposition from existing shareholders including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

Geely currently has no plans to raise its stake in Aston Martin, the company said in a statement. A representative for Aston Martin declined to comment.

Once touted as a peer to Ferrari NV, Aston Martin has suffered a number of setbacks since its initial public offering in 2018.

With dwindling cash and rising debt, the manufacturer sought a rescue in 2020 from Stroll, who injected cash and forged closer ties with Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

At the time of the investment on Sept 30, Geely said it saw potential opportunities to collaborate with Aston Martin.

A move on the manufacturer synonymous with James Bond films may precipitate Geely seeking to tap into the carmaker’s brand appeal and expand into new markets.

Geely, which owns Volvo Car AB and a plethora of shareholdings in major automotive companies including Mercedes, also took control of British roadster maker Lotus in 2017.

Earlier this year, Lotus unveiled an electric sport utility vehicle that will be built in China and spearhead a broader model line-up with a plan to boost production to 150,000 cars, up from fewer than 2,000.

In July, Aston Martin said it had rejected a proposal by Geely and Investindustrial for an equity investment of as much as £1.3bil (RM71.bil). Since then, its shares have slumped almost 40%.

While working on its turnaround, Aston Martin has seen key models delayed, leading to further measures to prop up the company.

This included a £654mil (RM3.46bil) capital raise to improve its balance sheet, bringing in Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

“Aston Martin is a strategic top brand” and Geely should be able to utilise the relationship to further penetrate Europe or leverage its technology, Kelvin Lau, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets, said. -— Bloomberg


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