Assurance for Lotus that no sale decision taken
The campaign to keep Lotus in Norfolk has received a further boost after the firm's new owners indicated efforts to prepare the iconic British car-maker for sale had been put 'on hold'.
Lotus is owned by automotive giant Proton, but the parent company was recently bought by Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom, which is yet to reveal its long-term plans for the sports car specialist and its Hethel factory which employs 1,200 people.
Fears that Hicom intended to sell Lotus to a buyer that would halt UK operations heightened when South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon revealed in Parliament last week that consultants KPMG had been appointed to evaluate Lotus for a sale.
But in an interview with the Malaysian national news agency Bernama, Hicom managing director Datuk Seri Mohd Khamil Jamil said KPMG's appointment was made before his firm acquired Lotus and had now been frozen.
He said: 'We put on hold any further effort by KPMG towards selling Lotus when we completed the acquisition of Proton.'
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There had also been rumours that Chinese car firm China Youngman, which already has close links to Lotus, had been waiting in the wings ready to snap up the British brand.
News that Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar was involved in registering a Lotus Youngman subsidiary in the days before Proton was sold to Hicom also saw speculation mount, though Mr Bahar has denied the move had anything to do with a sale.
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In his comments Mr Khamil Jamil highlighted that there were many decisions made before Hicom acquired Proton and that the appointment of KPMG was just one of them.
He went on to address ongoing speculation that Hicom is still intent on eventually selling Lotus. He said: 'The operations audit on Lotus is still ongoing in accordance with our governance process.
'And I reiterate that we have not decided on selling Lotus.'
The comments do not guarantee that Lotus will not be sold at some point in the future, but do serve to quell speculation that a sale is imminent.
When Lotus' future was thrown into doubt by Hicom's purchase of Proton, the Eastern Daily Press launched a campaign, backed by MPs and regional business figures, to put the case forward for keeping the company's Hethel base operational.
Meanwhile the cause has been pursued in Westminster by Norfolk MPs led by Mr Bacon, who today positively greeted the comments from the Hicom managing director.
He said: 'I understand that the group managing director has made these comments and I think they are a very welcome development.
'There has been a great deal of concern in Norfolk about the future of Lotus and about rumours of a sale. The managing director's confirmation that any such plans are on hold are very welcoming indeed.'