Aston Martin has agreed a £500m rescue deal, led by the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, under which the luxury British car brand will be used by a Formula One racing team from 2021.
The deal saved Aston Martin, perhaps best known as the makers of James Bond’s cars, from imminent collapse, as its huge debt pile threatened to cause it to go bust for the eighth time in its 107-year history.
Stroll, 60, is leading a consortium that will invest £182m in return for 16.7% of the struggling carmaker, which will also launch a £318m rights issue. The deal includes an immediate £55.5m capital injection.
Stroll’s consortium includes business partners from many of the fashion investments in which he made his fortune, together with Anthony Bamford, the chairman of the digger maker JCB, who is also known for his political donations to Boris Johnson and the leave campaigns.
The Racing Point F1 team controlled by Stroll will become the Aston Martin F1works team for at least 10 years with effect from the 2021 season, the company said.
The newly issued shares will be priced at £4 per share, way below the £19 float price when the firm joined the stock market in October 2019. The slump in the company’s value, to only £918m on Thursday night, has followed a string of warnings that weak 2019 sales were leaving it short of cash.
Shares in Aston Martin jumped 25% after the deal was announced, up 106p to 508p – but they are still barely a quarter of their float price.
The stock market float was predicated on the successful launch of the DBX, the first SUV from Aston Martin, which is expected to go into production in the spring. It was hoped that the DBX would eventually double the Warwickshire-based company’s annual sales. However, it also involved heavy investment in a new factory in south Wales before revenues from the car arrived.
Aston Martin said it now would hold back investment in electric vehicles beyond 2025 after reviewing its business and that it would seek to cut costs by £10m a year. Its Lagonda brand had been planned to become an electric marque.
As part of the deal, Penny Hughes, the chair brought in to oversee the disastrous float, will resign. She said a difficult 2019 had left Aston Martin “no alternative” but to seek the new financing. Stroll will now become executive chairman.
Andy Palmer, who remains Aston Martin’s chief executive, said the business had run out of cash. A very tough 2019, he said, had resulted in “a stressed position with severe pressure on liquidity”.
In January the company reported that it had £107m in cash, giving it a net debt load of as much as £885m, almost seven times its annual earnings. Much of that debt was borrowed at painful interest rates, including a 12% annual rate on £120m borrowed last September.
The company hopes that the forthcoming launch of the DBX, for which it has at least 1,800 orders, will bring in much-needed revenues. It will also hope for a sales boost from the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die, to be released in April. Four Aston Martin cars will feature in the film.
However, the company said it is going ahead with further job cuts among permanent and contract employees. A spokesman said the cuts would be outweighed by 300 jobs being added as the south Wales plant reaches full capacity.
Stroll was a fashion investor who backed brands such as Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. His net worth, according to Forbes, is $2.6bn.
In August 2018, he led a group of investors to buy the Formula One racing team Force India for £90m. He also took on £15m in debt and renamed it Racing Point.