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Aston Martin owners rev up for possible sale or stock IPO

Financial firms are advising, but an IPO sure worked for Ferrari

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LONDON — Aston Martin's owners have hired financial advisory firm Lazard to prepare for a stock market listing or sale of the British sports car maker made famous by fictional spy James Bond, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Italian private equity fund Investindustrial and a group of Kuwaiti investors, who together own more than 90 percent of the marque, are hoping to cash in on a recovery in sales and are in the initial stages of a strategic review.

They have hired investment bank Lazard to work on a preliminary plan and could either opt for an initial public offering (IPO) in the third or fourth quarter of 2018 or a trade sale, two of the sources said on Friday.

A deal could value the maker of the sports car driven by Britain's Prince William on his wedding day at between 2 billion and 3 billion pounds ($4 billion), one of the sources said, adding a listing was the most likely option.

However, no final decision had been taken and the investors could decide to retain control, the sources added.

Investindustrial declined to comment while Aston Martin and Lazard did not return requests for comment. Adeem Investment, one of the Kuwaiti investors, was not immediately available.

If successful, a float of Aston Martin would be a milestone deal for the 104-year-old car manufacturer and would follow the IPO of Italian sportscar maker Ferrari which made its Wall Street debut in 2015 amid strong investor demand.

Investindustrial, led by founder Andrea Bonomi, bought 37.5 percent of Aston Martin in 2012 in what was the fund's best-known investment in Britain.

The fund, which has clinched a number of Southern European investments since its launch in 1990, is Aston Martin's single biggest investor and is driving the plans, the sources said.

Beside Lazard, other investment banks have approached the private equity fund in recent weeks offering advice ahead of a possible IPO, another source said.

Yet no other mandates will be awarded this year for the Gaydon-based firm, which is in the midst of a turnaround plan that aims to restore the business to profitability following six years of losses.

Aston Martin, which recently unveiled its new Vantage model, is on course to post its first annual pre-tax profit since 2010 as strong demand for the luxury automaker's DB11 sports car boosts its performance.

Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer has repeatedly said that the decision and timing of an IPO were matters for the shareholders but that it made sense for them to consider the option before the end of the company's turnaround plan, which is due to be completed in 2022.

Since Palmer's appointment in 2014, the firm has pursued a recovery strategy designed to boost its model lineup, quadruple volumes and produce its first SUV at a new plant in Wales.

Its volumes rose by 65 percent to 3,330 cars in the first nine months of the year, prompting the firm to raise its full-year guidance to expect core earnings of at least 180 million pounds on revenue of more than 840 million pounds.

($1 = 0.7509 pounds)

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Ben Martin

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