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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 August 2006, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Ford considers Aston Martin sale
Aston Martin DBS
James Bond will be driving an Aston Martin again in the next 007 film
Aston Martin could soon be sold off, after owner Ford announced that it was looking at the future of the brand.

Ford said it was exploring strategic options for the luxury brand "with particular emphasis on a potential sale" of all or part of the unit.

A spokesman for the firm said it had already received a number of approaches for the brand from potential buyers.

Ford added there was no guarantee the review would result in Aston - made famous by James Bond - being sold.

"As part of our ongoing strategic review, we have determined that Aston Martin may be an attractive opportunity to raise capital and generate value," said chairman and chief executive Bill Ford.

"Aston Martin Lagonda has flourished under Ford ownership, which is why we believe it is prudent to consider a sale of all or part of this prized brand."

Easier sale

Experts said Ford had probably decided to sell Aston Martin as it was a profitable business and so would be easier to dispose of.

ASTON MARTIN HISTORY
1913 - founded in London by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford
1975 - sold to American owners
1987 - Ford buys 75% stake
1994 - Ford takes full control
2005 - record sales of 4,500 units

Tom Donnelly, a motor industry specialist at Coventry Business School, said selling the business would help Ford to fund its massive restructuring drive in the US.

"It's one way to free up cash and fund subsequent redundancies in the US," he told BBC News.

He added that the brand was seen as the "jewel in the crown of luxury brands", and while it may not be attractive to other car firms as the industry goes through a tough period it would be an attractive proposition for a private equity firm.

"A private equity buyer would be good for jobs and for the car, it would mean a fresh injection of capital into Aston Martin," he said.

Struggling

Aston is part of the Premier Automotive Group (PAG) of luxury car brands which also includes Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.

The division has been struggling in recent years, and in a filing to US financial watchdogs earlier this month Ford said it expected PAG to be unprofitable in 2006.

However, Mr Ford said the group had not yet made a decision on the future of the entire division.

Founded in 1913, Aston Martin now has its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire. It employs around 1,700 people at two sites, one in Gaydon, the other at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire.

The business sold an estimated 4,500 cars last year and has set a target of 5,000 sales this year.

News that the iconic Aston brand could be sold off follows recent speculation that Ford's underperforming UK Jaguar unit could also be put up for sale. Earlier this month machinery group JCB said it was interested in buying Jaguar.


SEE ALSO
JCB interested in buying Jaguar
25 Aug 06 |  Business
Ford review 'may spark sell-off'
02 Aug 06 |  Business
Rapide beats Panamera to market
01 Mar 06 |  Business
Budget Aston car takes on Porsche
01 Mar 05 |  Business

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