By putting British luxury car Aston Martin on the block, the ailing US auto giant Ford Motor Co is gearing up the restructuring of its global automotive business, analysts say.
Ford announced on Thursday it wants to hive off Aston Martin, the dashing sports car immortalized by fictional superspy James Bond.
The loss-making Detroit company said it wanted to free up resources for its other auto brands, and said that prospective buyers had already come forward for the legendary British marque.
Chairman and chief executive Bill Ford said that Aston Martin had "flourished" since it became part of the US group in 1986, "which is why we believe it is prudent to consider a sale of all or part of this prized brand."
Bill Ford said the British unit's dealer network, products and size were all distinctly different from other Ford brands, making it "the most logical and capital-smart divestiture choice."
Any sale would enable Ford "to efficiently raise capital for its other brands," Bill Ford added.
While Ford does not break out the profit and loss statement for individual brands, company officials made a point of stressing that Aston Martin is profitable.
Ford has not yet decided on the future of Aston Martin's stablemates in the company's Premier Automotive Group (PAG), including luxury carmaker Jaguar, Bill Ford added in a statement.
"However, we continue to be encouraged by Jaguar's progress and by the strength and consumer appeal of the Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo product lineups," he said.
Analysts saw the spinoff of Aston Martin as a relatively simple move to advance the company's battle to revamp operations as it suffers hefty losses in income and market share.
Jack Nerad of Kelly Blue Book, which collects data on car sales, said putting Aston Martin up for sale first makes sense because it is relatively independent of other Ford units.
"Its an island unto itself," he said.
Brett Smith, a senior industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, also saw the structural logic of the spinoff.
"If you look at the PAG group, Aston Martin is the least truly integrated into the Ford system in terms of the dealer network and all that goes with it," Smith said.
"Some potential buyer with the right financial backing could come in and create a unique brand that is profitable," he said.
"That's harder for some of the other PAG brands like Jaguar or Volvo, because they're so much intertwined with the rest of the Ford group," he said.
Analysts said there were rumors of Chinese and South Korean interest in Aston Martin. Smith suggested privately backed equity groups were more likely to make a move than large automakers like Volkswagen or Honda.
"Anybody who does this is going to buy the prestige. For an Asian manufacturer, it would give them immediate name recognition and the chance to approach a market that, with their low costs, they could do very well in," Smith said.
But he warned of image pitfalls in a non-European acquisition.
"If it's a European or British-led buyout, the marque keeps its name. If it goes elsewhere in the world, you lose that heritage. That's a serious risk," he said.
"Whether a buyer of an Aston Martin would be happy to be buying effectively a Chinese car remains to be seen," he added.
Smith also predicted that Ford would not be in the driver's seat in the sale.
"Ford is going to get less than it's probably worth, certainly less than they've put into it over the years. Buyers know that Ford's in trouble and are going to drive a pretty hard bargain," he said.
CAUTION: Taiwanese should be alert, even if they have just liked or shared posts that would breach Beijing’s national security legislation for Hong Kong, the council said Due to the newly implemented Hong Kong national security legislation, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has drawn up a list of what it described as “high-risk groups,” cautioning them not to travel to Hong Kong. People who support independence for Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang; those who are critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Hong Kong government and the “one country, two systems” concept; and those who donated to or voiced support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement are urged to refrain from visiting Hong Kong, the council said on its Web site. It released two posts on
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
NEW HONG KONG LAW: A visit to Beijing-friendly nations or those with weak judicial systems could leave people at risk of deportation to China, a former MAC official said Beijing could request countries with which it has extradition agreements to deport Taiwanese to China to face criminal charges following the implementation of national security legislation for Hong Kong, a former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) official warned yesterday. Some developing countries, and those close to China because of the Belt and Road Initiative, are likely to accommodate Beijing’s requests to extradite Taiwanese to China, said former deputy MAC minister Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺), who served from July 2, 2018, until May 20, and then returned to his former post as an assistant professor of sociology at National Tsing Hua University. While Taiwanese
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official