McLaren accelerates into debt to build new 'super-car' factory

Motor giant borrows £40m for its £175,000 MP4-1C, which can hit 124mph in less than 10 seconds
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The Independent Online

The McLaren Group, owner of the eponymous Formula One team racing in today's Hungarian Grand Prix, has taken on debt for the first time in five years to fund its new factory where its new "super car" will be built.

McLaren secured the loan of more than £40m from HSBC to pay for the new factory on its site in Woking, Surrey, which will employ 300 people.

McLaren Automotive is planning to start production of the new MP4-12C, a car which will cost up to £175,000, next spring. It plans to build 1,000 in the first year alone, giving it 1 to 2 per cent of the global high-luxury sports car segment.

By the middle of the decade the company hopes to be producing 4,000 vehicles a year. Dubbed a super car as it will rocket to 124 miles per hour in under 10 seconds, it is also the first of a series of high-end sports cars that McLaren could produce in the coming years. McLaren will sell the car through retailers in 19 countries, with North America expected to account for up to 40 per cent of the market.

The new factory and site are owned by McLaren Group as an investment property, and will be leased to the automotive company which has been spun out of the parent. However, the expansion still represents a significant risk for McLaren as it is the first time since 2005 that the group has had more than £1m in bank loans.

McLaren's biggest revenue generator is its F1 team, which provided 64 per cent of the group's £264.9m turnover in 2008. The team goes into today's race leading the F1 championship, with British drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. However, off-track McLaren lags far behind its arch-rival Ferrari.

McLaren Automotive, the group's road-car business, was established in 1989 to produce the McLaren F1, which was priced at £640,000 and was the world's fastest production car until 2005. Only 100 of the cars were produced, and in 2008 road-car sales brought in £91.4m to McLaren, compared with Ferrari which made €€1.9bn from selling 6,587 cars in the same year.

Now McLaren Automotive is offering a 48 per cent stake in the business to private investors, with the remainder of its shares split between the Bahraini Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund, executive chairman Ron Dennis and the Swiss TAG Group. The three parties jointly own the McLaren Group, and in November last year they agreed to buy back the 40 per cent stake belonging to German car manufacturer Daimler.

A McLaren spokesman says that in addition to funding the construction of the new factory, the HSBC loan will also "provide head room on its facilities to assist in the buyback of the remaining Daimler shares by the end of 2011".

The loan is secured on McLaren's intellectual property, cash in the bank, and its land and buildings, which had a book value of £193.8m at the end of 2008. The spokesman adds that this security is "an effective way of reducing the risk to the bank and thus the interest margins charged on the debt".

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