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James Bond's carmaker bankrupt?

2009-09-30 06:47
With Aston Martin in a significant financial mire we wonder if James Bond will still have a car to drive in his next movie.

You know the deal with Aston Martin. Ford sold it off in March of 2007 to Prodrive mastermind and racing entrepreneur Dave Richards.

Adding financial liquidity to the deal was a Kuwaiti fund called Investment Dar, which had a raft of particularly acquisitive Gulf banks finance part of its 51% stake of the $925m deal back in 2007.

Then and, well, now

In 2007 the world was awash in easily accessible lines of credit and cars were literally flying off showroom floors.

Two years later, well, let us just say spending has been curtailed a bit…

Investment Dar is in a spot of bother now.

Oil prices are nearly half of what they were at peak 2008 levels and, in April, the investment fund defaulted on a $100m Islamic bond, part of a $393m sharia-compliant loan which originally financed the purchase of Aston Martin from Ford.

Not good.

Can somebody just please save Aston from nouveau riche investment firms before the maker of the world's most beautiful cars suffers further indignity?

Anybody with $1b in a drawer?

Late last year, Investment Dar tried to access $1b worth of credit to refinance its debt – it was unsuccessful, even with Credit Suisse as an advisor.

Meanwhile, Aston has taken as much strain as other car manufacturers during the global economic slowdown, shedding 600 jobs at its Gaydon facility – nearly a third of the total Bond-car workforce.

Compounding the problems, Kuwait’s central bank suspended trading in Investment Dar shares since April 1, after the fund failed to submit 2008 financial results on time.

In July, Dar rallied against the central bank’s decision for not approving the company’s 2008 financial data set. If new shares cannot be issued, raising capital becomes hugely challenging.

As things stand now, Dar has been given leave from action on behalf of creditors until the end of this year, effectively giving the company (and by association, Aston Martin) three months to find a lot of money at a time when nobody is lending.

Dar says it will sell some of its assets to meet financial obligations. This could mean Ulrich Bez might see some new names on the invite list for this year’s Aston Martin Christmas party. If there even is one…


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