DRB-Hicom Bhd. (DRB), the Malaysian investment company buying the owner of British sports-car maker Lotus Group International Ltd., hired consultant KPMG regarding the business, a person familiar with the matter said.
KPMG is being asked to evaluate Hethel, England-based Lotus as DRB proceeds with the purchase of the manufacturer’s parent company, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue is private.
DRB, controlled by billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, agreed in January to acquire a majority stake in Malaysian state-owned carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd. (PROH), Lotus’s owner. DRB Managing Director Mohd Khamil Jamil said on March 14 that the U.K. manufacturer of the Elise and Exige sports cars may be sold if it fails to meet unspecified performance targets.
Richard Bacon, the Conservative Party lawmaker who represents the English constituency of South Norfolk where Lotus is based, said in a parliamentary debate April 24 that he’s concerned that the sports-car maker will be sold to a Chinese company, leading to a loss of jobs in his region.
Lotus’s chief has been “incentivized in his contract” for a sale, and “recently” visited China, and any assurance by a suitor from that country that jobs will be preserved “is unlikely to be worth much,” Bacon said in the debate.
Proton hasn’t made a profit from Lotus since buying the sports-car maker in 1996, as the British brand has struggled to compete against Porsche AG and Ferrari SpA (F) in Europe. Deliveries by Lotus in the U.K. dropped 43 percent last year to 329 cars, according to the country’s auto-industry association.
Lotus is “a little bit disappointed” that much of Bacon’s debate statement was “inaccurate,” said Alastair Florance, a spokesman for the sports-car manufacturer. “We will deal with that directly” with the parliamentarian.
Florance declined to comment on whether KPMG had been hired, which was reported earlier today by the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper. Sorelle Cooper, a spokeswoman for the consulting company, also declined to comment. Spokesmen at DRB and for Al-Bukhary couldn’t be reached for comment after business hours in Malaysia.
Proton’s shares will be suspended from trading in Kuala Lumpur as of May 4 after DRB won acceptance for its offer from investors holding 90.8 percent of the carmaker’s stock, according to a filing today.
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