Lotus Purchased by Proton

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (Reuter)

Malaysian national carmaker Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton) and its key shareholder Yahaya Ahmad has bought an 80 percent stake in British sports car maker Group Lotus Ltd.

The national Bernama news agency quoted a Proton statement as saying on Wednesday that the deal was valued at 51 million pounds. Bernama said Proton bought a 63.75 percent stake or 6.375 million Lotus shares for 38 million pounds.

Yahaya acquired 16.25 percent or 1.625 million shares for 13 million pounds. At the same time, Proton would lend Lotus 13 million pounds at a rate of 1.5 percent per annum over the Midland Bank Base Rate ruling, from day to day for a one-year period. The agency quoted the Proton statement as saying that its acquisition of Lotus would be funded with internally generated funds. Proton said the acquisition was subject to Bank Negara approval for investments abroad but not subject to shareholders' approval.

"The acquisition would, therefore, avail Proton ready access to research and development capability, thus, saving on financial resources, time and manpower," Proton said. The statement confirmed market speculation that Proton was seeking to take a majority stake in the British car maker.

Lotus was taken over by General Motors Corp in 1986, and then piled up losses of 50 million pounds in the five years before its sale in 1993 to Bugatti International.

On Wednesday, South Korea's Daewoo Motor Co Ltd, a unit of Daewoo Group, said it has shelved plans to buy a stake in Lotus after an earlier bid.

Thursday, October 31, 1996

Proton buys 80pc stake in auto giant Lotus

By Tan Kah Peng

LONDON: Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton) has bought an 80 per cent stake in Lotus Group International Ltd, the world-renowned British automotive engineering company and manufacturer of luxury sports cars, for a total cash consideration of =A351 million (RM204 million).

The controlling interest was acquired from ACBN Holdings S.A. Luxembourg, Proton said in a statement, which was released simultaneously at a press conference at the Lotus plant in Hethel near Norwich and in Kuala Lumpur.

"We see our strong partnership in a very positive light, mutually benefitting both Lotus and Proton.

In concluding the deal, both companies are aware that we can draw from each other's strengths and make us more competitive," Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad, chairman of DRB-Hicom, Proton's parent company, told a press conference here.

Romano Artioli, the Italian entreprenuer who controls ACBN Holdings, will retain a 20 per cent stake in Lotus. He bought over the company from General Motors on Aug 27, 1993.

Artioli said the deal was sealed in 20 minutes at a meeting with Yahaya on Oct 18 in Hethel, after three months of negotiations.

Artioli said Proton would also absorb the debts of Lotus which he estimated at =A38 million (RM32 million).

"Lotus' expertise in product development and engineering and its exclusive patents will complement Proton's capability in manufacturing and provide the Malaysian manufacturer with additional research, development and engineering resources," the statement said.

Proton said the ready access to some of the world's best R & D facilities would synergise with its operation to meet the production target of 500,000 high quality cars a year by 1999 and enable it to compete at the highest level in the international automotive market.

It said the partnership would provide Lotus with opportunities to develop new export markets for its world renowned sports cars, particularly in the Far East and, together with Proton, to take part in the World GT1 motor racing championship.

The statement said the change in ownership would not affect the way that the Norfolk-based company's businesses, including Lotus Engineering, were managed, and would also secure the long-term future of its car production in Britain and safeguard jobs at the Hethal plant.

Lotus Engineering has craved a name for itself as a leading independent supplier of design engineering and technology to automotive and industrial clients throughout the world. It is involved in about 120 projects with 40 customers.

The acquisition of Lotus, which has had three troubled years, offers the world renowned company a new lease of life with greater opportunities. For Yahaya, it was a major corporate coup of global dimension.