Suspended Lotus boss Dany Bahar keeps a low profile

Lotus's suspended chief executive Dany Bahar was keeping a low profile yesterday - shedding no new light on the investigation into his conduct by the firm's new owners.

Mr Bahar was temporarily removed from his �1.2m post on Friday following a meeting with bosses of DRB-Hicom in Malaysia.

But he was back in Norfolk at his Hethersett home yesterday.

However, when approached by the EDP, a woman who came to the door of his expansive rented home in Norwich Road, made it clear that Mr Bahar would not be commenting further on the suspension issue or his future.

'He will not be speaking to the press,' the blonde woman, who appeared to be dressed in tennis whites, said.

Few details of the reason behind his suspension have been revealed, however DRB has been running the rule over Lotus after initiating an operations and legal audit on 'Lotus group of companies' in March.

In a statement yesterday, the firm, which bought the car maker's parent company Proton in January, re-iterated that it was not selling Lotus.

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In fact DRB boss Dato Sri Haji Mohd Khamil, who recently visited Lotus' Hethel plant and also met business secretary Vince Cable stressed the value of the Norfolk car firm to the conglomerate.

'We acknowledge that Lotus can provide value to Proton,' he said. 'Lotus is an iconic brand with global presence and positioning, coupled with unsurpassed engineering expertise and a talented workforce.'

However in a sign of what may be on DRB's mind, the statement said the review had raised the issue of �270m of loans to support Lotus which had been guaranteed by Proton at the end of 2010 and its review had become 'especially pertinent' as a result.

The statement did not expand on the finance issue, but reports in the Malaysian press said Mr Bahar's five-year transformation plan at Lotus has not proceeded well, suggesting that Malaysian banks were imposing financial restrictions, because Lotus was unable to meet loan covenants and had asked for two six month extensions.

There are also suggestions that the Malaysian banks are seeking their money back.

That is sure to raise questions over whether DRB, which has parachuted in three Proton and Hicom officials to oversee the day-to-day running of Lotus while the probe into Mr Bahar is carried out, will seek to scale back an ambitious five year plan to transform the company from a specialist niche car company into a profitable sports car brand.

The plan to double annual production to 6,000 cars by 2015, was expected to create more than 1,000 jobs and see five new models roll off the production line in Hethel and has also attracted more than �10m of support from the government's regional growth fund, although the offer has been put on hold until Lotus' future is clarified.

Mr Khamil added: 'Both Proton and DRB-Hicom will continue to review the existing business plans and financial position of Lotus in taking Lotus forward in the immediate-to medium-term.

And he said that recent meetings with Dr Cable and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon to discuss the carmaker's future had been fruitful.

'They were both very supportive of our views and developments with regard to the future plans for Lotus,' he said.

'Both Proton and DRB-Hicom will continue to review the existing business plans and financial position of Lotus in taking Lotus forward in the immediate to medium term.'

DRB Hicom's head of investor relations Khalid Yusof and head of vehicle manufacturing projects Aslam Farikullah have been drafted in to run the day to day business of Lotus in Mr Bahar's absence.

They will work with Lukman Ibrahim and Rusman Zaihan, also from the parent companies.

Mr Bacon, who has been behind a campaign to keep Lotus in Norfolk said the Proton statement was encouraging and reiterated DRB and Proton's commitment to Lotus.