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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

McLaren denies sale to German rival Audi

McLaren has been forced to deny a takeover by Audi amid growing speculation of a bidding war for the troubled supercar maker after its chief executive quit.

The Woking-based company insisted that a report it had been bought by the German marque was untrue.

McLaren added that it is holding talks about how to collaborate with some of its rival car makers, which it did not name, but said that the story from the trade magazine Autocar was “wholly inaccurate”.

It is the latest in a string of rumoured takeover bids. On Sunday, the German magazine Automobilwoche reported that BMW and Audi were vying to buy McLaren following heavy losses.

Last month the company announced the departure of Mike Flewitt, its chief executive for the past eight years.

BMW has denied a possible deal. Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen, said it was open to cooperation with fellow manufacturers.

McLaren has been struggling to manage the impact of the Covid crisis and the rise of electric vehicles, which require heavy investment beyond the reach of most small-scale premium manufacturers.

The business raised £170m earlier this year through the sale and lease back of its Surrey headquarters, which was designed by the architect Norman Foster, and has laid off more than 800 people in an effort to cut costs.

McLaren is controlled by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat. Other investors include the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which backed the business when it raised £550m of new equity during the summer – the second injection in as many years after it tapped shareholders for £300m in April 2020.

In December McLaren announced the sale of a third of its Formula 1 team to investor MSP Sports Capital. The deal valued the racing business at £560m.

Annual results for 2020 showed demand for McLaren’s cars was recovering but it still posted a 48pc slide in sales to £773m and a pre-tax loss of £318m, up from £28m for the previous 12 months.

Any purchase would pose a challenge for Volkswagen, which is trying to reduce its carbon output.

Adding a Formula 1 team would prove a setback in that endeavour.

A spokesman for McLaren said: “McLaren Group is aware of a news media report stating it has been sold to Audi. This is wholly inaccurate. 

“McLaren’s technology strategy has always involved ongoing discussions and collaboration with relevant partners and suppliers, including other carmakers, however, there has been no change in the ownership structure of the McLaren Group.”

Audi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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