Aston Martin, purveyors of fast cars to a fictional British spy and to real-life billionaires, could be partly owned by India's Mahindra and Mahindra by the end of the week if the Mumbai tractor moguls have their way.
But much is unclear as the British maker of James Bond's sports cars, its Kuwaiti owner and a rival Italian bidder keep their own counsel. There are a lot of moving parts here, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday, adding the Mahindras hoped to strike a deal this week.
The source told Reuters that an initial 40-percent stake could rise to 50 percent for a total price unlikely to top $400 million.
Kuwait's Investment Dar, which led a private acquisition of the luxury brand from Ford in 2007, denied on Sunday that it was reviewing two bids for 50 percent after sources said Mahindra had outbid Italian investor InvestIndustrial.
The person familiar with the deal said on Monday, however, that bidders were wrangling over issues on management control.
Analysts have said that Investment Dar, which went to the market for a $1-billion debt restructuring last year after buying Aston Martin for 479 million pounds, or $925 million at the time, had been hoping to recoup what it had sunk into the company - meaning a value for the firm of about $1 billion.
InvestIndustrial bid between 200 million and 250 million pounds ($400 million) for a stake, a source had said earlier. The company again declined comment on Monday.
An apparent lack of interest among major car makers, such as BMW, Daimler or Toyota, may have left the way open for the likes of InvestIndustrial, which bought and sold Italy's Ducati high-end motorcycle brand in recent years, and Mahindra, the world's biggest tractor maker, which has seen compatriots at Tata Motor do well in buying Jaguar Land Rover four years ago.
Tractors and James Bond
Nonetheless, some analysts questioned the logic of linking the Mahindra family to Aston Martin - though the 99-year-old British firm had its heyday in the 1950s and 60s when owned by another tractor man, Yorkshire magnate David Brown, founder of the classic DB model line beloved of Agent 007.
It's difficult to visualise a tractor and an Aston Martin in the same garage, said Mads Kaiser, a Silkeborg, Denmark-based fund manager with JI India Equity Fund, which owns Mahindra shares in its $200-million Indian equities portfolio.
The acquisition will broaden their portfolio