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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 08:16 GMT
Aston Martin 'on brink of sale'
Aston Martin
Aston Martin could be sold for up to $1bn
Luxury car business Aston Martin could be sold to a British-led company in the next few days by current owner Ford.

The buyer is tipped to be a consortium led by Dave Richards, head of the performance car specialists Prodrive, based in Banbury in Oxfordshire.

The price tag is likely to be between 400m and 500m ($770m to $965m).

Ford bought 75% of Aston Martin - best known for being James Bond's favourite car - in 1987, picking up the rest of the marque's shares six years later.

The American giant put Aston Martin up for sale six months ago, in response to its own financial problems.

Ford lost more than $12bn last year and has had to take out a $23bn mortgage to cover its restructuring.

Access to technology

It's a classic trophy asset
Simon Dorris, Lansdowne Consultants

"They're laying off tens of thousands of workers and closing plants in North America so raising $1bn by selling Aston Martin is a quick hit for them to keep their shareholders happy", according to David Bailey, Professor of Economic Policy and International Business at Birmingham University.

While Ford is now only likely to get half the amount it was looking for, it is expected to retain a minority stake in the business.

If Ford was to keep some shares, it would also help the buyers retain access to the technology that drives the current models.

ASTON MARTIN HISTORY
Aston Martin DBS
1913: Founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford
1975: Sold to American owners
1987: Ford buys 75% stake
1994: Ford takes full control
2005: Record 4,500 sales

Dave Richards is a former accountant who became a professional rally driver, winning the World Rally Championship as co-driver with Ari Vatanen in 1981.

His company, Prodrive, already runs the Aston Martin racing team in the sports car series around the world, as well as the Subaru world rally team. However Prodrive itself will probably not be involved in the consortium bid.

But with Prodrive due to enter Formula One racing next year and there has been speculation that the cars might be Aston Martin branded.

The financial backing for the potential deal is understood to come from Egypt's Naeem investment bank and US investors.


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