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Aston Martin not actively pursuing new investors as opens SUV plant

By Costas Pitas
A name plate for the James Bond 1965 Aston Martin DB5 coupe is displayed at Sotheby's auction house in New York

By Costas Pitas

ST ATHAN, Wales (Reuters) - Aston Martin <AML.L>, which was reported this week to be the target of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, said it was not actively pursuing new investors on Friday as it opened a new factory to build its first sport utility vehicle.

As some in the global car industry turn to partnerships, alliances or mergers to handle the challenge of electrification, new technology and tighter margins, Autocar magazine reported on Thursday that Stroll, the owner of Formula One team Racing Point, is preparing to buy a major stake in Aston.

"You know what we would have to do if there was an official approach. Beyond that, I can't comment," Aston's chief executive Andy Palmer told Reuters at the factory opening, referring to rules governing publicly-listed companies.

"We're certainly not actively soliciting any other participation. That's not to say it doesn't come," he said when asked whether Aston needed a new investor.

The British automaker's new factory in south Wales holds the key to ending a poor performance this year from Aston, whose shares have tumbled 75% this year on weaker-than-expected sales.

In August, Aston's biggest investor, Strategic European Investment Group, bought an extra 3% stake in the 106-year-old company, whose second largest shareholder is a Kuwaiti investor.

Last month Aston, which floated in October 2018, launched its DBX model, hoping that more female buyers will help boost sales after posting a pre-tax loss of 92.3 million pounds ($118 million) for the first nine months.

It hopes its new factory, in St Athan, near Cardiff, will help turn around its fortunes. The plant is its second alongside its historic one in Gaydon, central England.

As the autos sector consolidates through deals such as the merge of Peugeot and Fiat, Aston has said it does not need to belong to a bigger automotive group, pointing to the success of stand-alone rival Ferrari <RACE.MI>.

Palmer said the small stake held by Germany's Daimler <DAIGn.DE> allows Aston to have access to technology and benefit from the speed at which it can operate independently.

"There is a perfectly rational route to success in our current state," he said.


(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison and Alexander Smith)