Aston Martin Is On A Tightrope

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Photo: Aston Martin (Aston Martin)

Aston Martin, which has pretty much bet the farm on the new DBX, has all of the telltale signs of a company that is currently in a slow-moving crisis. It replaced its CEO, shifted its sales strategy, and, like the rest of us, prayed for the end of coronavirus. Now, it’s raising millions in expensive debt.

The Financial Times reports that it will raise 260 million pounds, in a combination of new debt—at an interest rate of 12 percent—and a sale of shares, together worth around 20 percent of its business.

From the FT:

The latest fundraising is part of a plan by new chairman Lawrence Stroll to overhaul the company that has seen him name a new chief executive and finance boss and clear out the group’s board.

Mr Stroll, a Canadian billionaire with a background in luxury clothing and motor racing, led a £540m rescue deal earlier in the year, with the promise to revive the company. Its shares have sunk more than 90 per cent since listing in late 2018.

The group booked a £120m loss in the three months to March, and on Wednesday Mr Stroll announced “further steps to improve financial flexibility in a period of ongoing uncertainty with this additional funding to execute the business plan”.


Now is probably a good time to point out that Stroll is a billionaire. Raising 260 million pounds seems strange in that context. Why? Why doesn’t Stroll just dump that money in himself? What’s even the point of being a billionaire if you can’t dump all your money into something?

The good news for Aston is that it is expected to start delivery of the DBX some time later this year, and its plant in St. Athan, Wales, is back up and running to make it. The bad news is that when companies start resorting to tactics like taking on expensive debt just to keep the lights on, that suggests that they are in real trouble.

Aston also has the Valkyrie still coming, which the FT says will appear sometime next year. That’s, you know, if Aston gets that far. Investors certainly don’t have much confidence, as Aston became a penny stock earlier this year after the stock price fell off a cliff in May

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More evidence that the luxury car business, even without a worldwide pandemic, is a brutal one. My best guess is that the DBX launch goes ... fine, and then Geely snaps up Aston for a bargain-basement price sometime next year.