Aston Martin boss says Chinese car company’s now 17% stake paves way for global growth and component sharing.
Aston Martin chairman Lawrence Stroll enjoys a “very amicable relationship” with Geely, he has told Automotive Daily Network partner Autocar, dismissing any notion that there was any tension or frustration in how the Chinese giant has been building up a substantial shareholding, initially on the stock market.
Geely was the other bidder to Stroll’s consortium when the latter took over in 2020, yet it wasn’t fully perturbed. It has since then built a substantial shareholding, most recently with an investment of £234 million (AUD$446 million) to up its stake from 7.6% to 17%.
The move made Geely the third-largest shareholder in Aston Martin, behind the Stroll-led Yew Tree Consortium (21%) and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (18%).
Speaking to Autocar at the Monaco Grand Prix, Stroll said this was “not a distraction” to him or his plans for Aston Martin and that the Geely relationship would prove beneficial, with the firm gaining potential access to technology in the way that it does through one of its other shareholders, Mercedes-Benz, and access to retail in China. “Growth in China is very important,” he said.
“Geely has a very close relationship with Mercedes, owning 10%. They want something similar from Aston Martin. They believe in my vision and believe in significant growth [potential],” said Stroll, adding that he and Geely had a shared belief that Aston Martin shares were undervalued.
“They are open, willing to co-operate and to give anything we desire – components, software, anything. My teams will look in the near future at what they can help us with.
“To be small volume, to then have two or three big brothers is hugely helpful. With something like an HVAC [system], why would I do it myself?
“They [Geely] have been after Aston Martin for a long time. I know the chairman fancies it. They were the other option to me.”
Aston Martin’s chief technical officer, Roberto Fedeli, also welcomed the Geely relationship. “Geely could be important, not now but in the future,” he said.
“It gives us the opportunity to talk and to use technology from China, components from China. Not parts that give you a difference in terms of the product but technology to make the journey [to production] quicker as you can leverage another big group with experience, technology and suppliers.”
Geely has also agreed not to acquire more than 22% of Aston Martin until August 2024, unless it makes a formal offer that’s recommended by Aston Martin directors. It can also increase its stake if a third party not acting with Geely announces a formal offer for Aston Martin.
Simultaneously, Yew Tree has agreed to not buy or sell any ordinary shares for the next 90 days (from 18 May) and not exceed a 25% stake in Aston Martin until August 2024. It would be able to increase its stake under the same terms as Geely.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group chairman Eric Li said at the time: “Our decision to increase our shareholding in Aston Martin reflects our confidence in the company’s growth prospects, its technologies and its management team.
“Since first acquiring our minority holding last September, we have worked collaboratively with executive chairman Lawrence Stroll and his colleagues and now look forward to exploring joint technology synergies and new growth opportunities to help this iconic automotive brand achieve its full potential.”
The move came a week after Zhejiang Geely Holding CEO Daniel Donghui Li told the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit that the brand is “open to collaborate and develop partnerships”.
The deal means that Geely will be able to supply Aston Martin with technology from its various brands, which include LEVC, Lotus, Lynk&Co, Polestar and Volvo.
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Geely acquired a 7.6% stake in Aston Martin in September 2022, after Aston Martin had rejected a £1.3 billion (AUD$2.48 billion) offer from the Atlas Consortium, which was led by Geely and Investindustrial, the Italian owner of Morgan.
At the time, Aston Martin said the Atlas offer had “markedly overestimated the company’s new equity capital requirements” and that it “would have been heavily dilutive for existing shareholders and comprised a number of execution obstacles”.
Additional reporting by Charlie Martin