Speculation is mounting that luxury sports car-maker Aston Martin is up for sale and being ‘hawked around the world’ to the highest bidder.
But the Warwickshire-based car-maker has rubbished the claims, maintaining the company is not for sale.
It has been claimed several leading manufacturers have been wooed as its Kuwaiti-based majority shareholder Investment Dar moves to offload the prestige marque, dubbed the UK’s ‘coolest brand’ for the fifth time in six years recently by the Centre for Brand Analysis.
A high level industry source told the Birmingham Post potential buyers had been approached but debts thought to have been taken on at the time the brand was sold by Ford in 2007 are a stumbling block at present.
The source said: "It is basically up for sale and everybody has been talking about it.
"Just about everyone who might be interested has been approached, including the likes of Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Ford.
"Basically it is being hawked around the world."
Tata, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, is also believed to have been approached and the purchase would be seem as a "perfect fit" by many, with Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters and the JLR engineering centre being close neighbours.
Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin also formed part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group before the US car giant sold them off to bolster its financial standing during difficult times in the automotive industry.
"Most around the world aren’t really interested due to the level of debt," the source added.
"If the venture capitalists based in the Middle East are prepared to clear some or all of its debts then put it up for sale there might be considerably more interest.
"Everyone seems to be waiting to see whether something is done about the debt levels.
"Tata has had talks and isn’t really interested but might be if the situation changed."
Automotive industry expert Professor David Bailey, from Coventry University’s Business School, said any move to sell Aston Martin would not come as a "big surprise" and added that JLR would make an ideal partner.
"It was never clear how long the Kuwaiti investors’ commitment would be," he said, "whether it was a short-term investment of a private equity type approach, though I think there was expectation at Aston Martin it would be a long-term investment.
"Certainly they picked it up at a good time as Ford was in need of cash, so it was a good opportunity to buy a very cool brand at a very good price and see if they could sell it on later."
He added: "I wouldn’t be surprised if they were looking to sell it on. I never saw it as a long-term thing.
"I would expect any buyer to be an established player in the car industry.
"This is a good brand and a great company that makes iconic cars but to make money they would need to do what Ford did with the Premier Automotive Group and look for synergies. The most obvious one is Jaguar Land Rover just down the road."
An Aston Martin spokesman denied the company was for sale, adding: "The shareholders are committed to the company and we carry on. There is a degree of putting two and two together and coming up with a figure that is not quite four."
He also pointed to the company’s annual figures up until December 2010, which saw revenue increase to £474.3 million from £347.9 million in 2009. It also improved operating margins, from 16.6 per cent to 19.7 per cent.
A consortium, including Investment Dar, David Richards, John Sinders and Kuwait-based Adeem Investment, bought Aston Martin from Ford in 2007 for £479 million.
Last year Aston Martin made a profit of £7.4 million.