Earlier this month, we ran a story about Aston Martin's major stockholder Investment Dar seeking a buyer for the British carmaker. According to the report, one of the interested buyers was India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, while Toyota had ordered a preliminary analysis, but didn’t proceed to a full-on evaluation.
All of the aforementioned parties either refuted the story or declined to comment; but then that’s usually the case with such transactions.
Now, The Financial Times is reporting that Investment Dar is currently in talks with the final bidders for a 50 percent stake in Aston Martin, citing four sources familiar with the subject.
The first is Mahindra & Mahindra, which according to the FT, has made the highest bid so far, and the second is the European buyout group InvestIndustrial that has valued the stake at around US$400 million.
Mahindra & Mahindra, which is the world’s largest tractor manufacturer, also has an automotive division, is India's largest SUV maker and last year acquired Korea’s SsangYong. It had also bid for Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008, but lost out to rival Indian company Tata Motors, and was also interested in Saab.
IHS Automotive analyst Deepesh Rathore told the newspaper why Mahindra has made the highest bid: “Mahindra wants to move into new markets, especially in America, and while there isn’t any obvious fit between the two businesses a brand like Aston Martin would raise their profile and they would be taken seriously.”
InvestIndustrial’s offer, while being far lower from the US$800 million Investment Dar reputedly wants for its share, brings something altogether different, but at the same time, very enticing: a technological partnership with Mercedes-Benz.
Being part of a large group is the only way small-volume manufacturers can manage to survive in a very competitive environment. Tying up with the world’s third-largest premium automotive company and gaining access to its technology must look very attractive to a company which still keeps evolving the Ford-era VH platform for its models and buys its engines from the Blue Oval’s plant in Cologne, Germany.
First Toyota, now Mercedes-Benz and, of course, Mahindra: we suspect Aston Martin going to bed with one of its suitors must be a martini or two away.
By Andrew Tsaousis