Aston Martin executive chairman Lawrence Stroll and his Yew Tree investment group have taken their shareholding in the firm to 28.29% – up from around 19% earlier this year – following a series of investments totaling around £50m in recent months, in an apparent bid to block Chinese car maker Geely from making an aggressive takeover bid.
The latest round of purchases from the Yew Tree consortium – which is led by Stroll but includes JCB’s Lord Anthony Bamford, Hong Kong billionaire Silas Chow, telecomms billionaire John McCaw, and biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli – comes at a time that the share price in the financially beleaguered British sports car maker has recovered from a low of 90p in November to around £1.70 today. That values Aston Martin at £1.2bn, down from £4bn when it’s listed in 2018.
If Yew Tree’s stake were to reach 29.99% it is required to make a mandatory offer to buy the remaining shares under the takeover code of practice. However, insiders strenuously deny that there are any plans to take the company private again.
Speaking last month after Yew Tree began to acquire substantial amounts of shares, Stroll said: “As a group of investors we share a firm belief that Aston Martin is undervalued and that, despite the recent supply chain challenges, it is well set to continue its growth trajectory in the ultra-luxury high performance automotive business.
“Our collective confidence in the medium and long term success of the business is driven by the strength of the order book, the exciting portfolio of new products that are set to come to the market and Aston Martin’s incredible global brand awareness.”
Consequently the suggestion from industry commentators – which Yew tree and Aston declined to respond to – is that the co-owners were seeking to block Geely, which owns 7.6% of the firm, from acquiring additional shares as the basis for a hostile takeover while the price was so low.
Geely took its shareholding in Aston for around £66m earlier this year, when the British sports car maker issued additional stock to raise around £654m, chiefly to pay down its debt and lower the burden of interest payments it was having to pay. Other significant shareholders include the Saudi Public Investment Fund (18.7%) and Mercedes-Benz (9.7%).