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Chinese car battery giant weighs stake in ailing Aston Martin

One of China’s leading electric vehicle battery-makers is weighing a deal that could involve taking a stake in Aston Martin Lagonda, the ailing manufacturer of James Bond’s favourite cars.

Sky News has learnt that CATL, which floated on China’s Shenzhen stock exchange in 2018, is among a number of parties which have held talks with Aston Martin and its advisers in recent weeks as they seek to recapitalise its battered balance sheet.

It was unclear this weekend whether the approach from CATL would result in any form of agreement between the two companies.

Aston Martin, which has been left reeling by a string of profit alerts since its ill-fated 2018 initial public offering in London, is scrambling to raise funds.

The Financial Times reported on Friday that Lawrence Stroll, the billionaire Formula One team-owner, was in advanced talks to invest about £200m in the luxury British car-maker, giving him a 20% stake in the company.

Geely, the Chinese car manufacturer, was also reported by the newspaper to be in discussions about an alliance or equity stake purchase.

A tie-up with CATL – also known by its full name of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co – would provide Aston Martin with the electrification technology it requires for future models.

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CATL has supplier relationships with car-makers including Volkswagen and Daimler, which owns a small stake in Aston Martin.

Andy Palmer
Image: Andy Palmer described described 2019 as ‘a bloody difficult year’

It was reported this week that Aston Martin’s plans for an all-electric Rapide E saloon have been scrapped amid the company’s wider financial difficulties.

Andy Palmer, the British company’s long-serving chief executive, described 2019 as “a bloody difficult year” as he announced the company’s latest profit warning this week.

It said it would draw down $ 100m of convertible debt as it continued “discussions with potential strategic investors which may or may not involve an equity investment into the company”.

Insiders said that Aston Martin wanted to tie up a refinancing as early as next week.

It has been a bruising 15 months for Mr Palmer and his boardroom colleagues since Aston Martin listed, with the added ignominy of a significant protest vote by independent shareholders against its pay policy last year.

Despite its float, the majority of the business is still owned by Investindustrial, an Italian private equity firm, and Investment Dar, a Kuwaiti investor.

Sources said this weekend said that the two big shareholders were increasingly open-minded about boardroom changes.

One person indicated that Mr Stroll had been asked about his interest in the Aston Martin chairmanship by the two investors, which would imperil the future of Penny Hughes, who took on the role when the company floated.

Mr Stroll is not thought to have any interest in becoming Aston Martin’s chairman.

Ms Hughes is also under pressure because Aston Martin failed to meet a commitment to be compliant with corporate governance by best practice by having a majority of independent directors with by the first anniversary of its flotation.

An insider suggested that the issue was close to being resolved.

The weakening sentiment towards one of the automotive industry’s most revered brands reflects wider fears about the health of the sector, with new car sales in the UK and China proving to be underwhelming.

Mr Palmer’s own future may now hinge on the performance of its £158,000 DBX SUV, which launched in November.

Aston Martin declined to comment on Saturday, while CATL did not respond to a request for comment.

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