Prime minister to raise Hethel-based Group Lotus future with Malaysian counterpart

PUBLISHED: 08:04 12 April 2012 | UPDATED: 11:25 12 April 2012

New Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar.

For Paul Hill.

New Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar. For Paul Hill.

Prime minister David Cameron will today raise the future of Hethel car maker Group Lotus at a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart with a view to ensuring more than 1,200 Norfolk jobs and the sports car production line are safe.

It comes as the company last night sought to dispel what it claimed were damaging rumours that the company is about to go into administration and its chief executive had gone.

Lotus Group went to the extraordinary length of issuing a three-page statement addressing a number of claims on both trade publication and social media websites.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, in whose constituency Group Lotus is based, said he had briefed Number 10 about the Lotus situation yesterday.

He said: “They (Number 10) are briefing the prime minister in advance of his meeting with the prime minister of Malaysia where the need to keep jobs in Norfolk will be made very forcefully.”

Speculation about the future of Group Lotus started when its parent company, Proton, was sold by the Malaysian government to DRB-HICOM – which is also Malaysian owned.

Mr Bacon said: “DRB-Hicom is naturally taking a reasonable amount of time to decide what to do with Group Lotus. DRB were buying Proton and they realised by default they were the owners of Lotus.

“My concern is to make absolutely sure that any decisions that are made are made in full cogency of the importance of keeping jobs in Norfolk.

“There are buyers out there who are well capitalised. They will keep the business and invest in it and safeguard jobs.”

He said that it was also highly likely that there were Chinese investors out there who would relocate the assets.

Until now the car maker has remained tight lipped about speculation.

Last night the statement said: “The simple fact is, and we haven’t denied this - Lotus is going through a very difficult phase at the moment but we are showing true fighting spirit every day in trying to keep this vision alive. This is also a fact – no matter what people outside of Lotus may say or tweet or blog.”

Refuting the rumour that Group Lotus was going into administration, the statement said:

“The takeover of our parent company Proton by DRB-Hicom couldn’t have come at a worse time, but until that point Proton was (and still remains) fully committed to our five year business plan to create jobs and expand the factory and business. With the takeover process the funding has been restricted and DRB-HICOM is taking time to understand what to do with the business.

“DRB-Hicom is currently in the middle of due dilligence of Group Lotus and there have been and continue to be postitive discussions between Group Lotus senior management and senior management at DRB-Hicom both here in Hethel and Malaysia. “At no point has DRB Hicom indicated to Group Lotus that it intends to put the company into administration. The over active rumor mill is seriously damaging our business reputation, image and credibility but it is what it is.”

It also strongly denied a claim on social media website Twitter that Dany Bahar was no longer chief executive.

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