Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar holds talks with new Malaysian owners as deal sees production slow down

The boss of Norfolk car maker Group Lotus has held talks in Malaysia with the new owners of parent company Proton setting out his vision for the company.

Chief executive Dany Bahar is believed to have met with new owners DRB-Hicom two weeks ago to his discuss his �200m vision to create a profitable sports car brand. It comes as production at the Hethel-based company has slowed following last month's �276m Proton takeover because Malaysian change of ownership rules mean that Group Lotus, which last year made a pre-tax loss of more than �20m has restricted access to previously agreed funding from Proton until the deal is completed.

That could take as long as 60 days and has forced the company to work with suppliers to delay payments in some cases, until the sale is completed and funds can be released. The company said it had invoked a 'banked hour' process about two weeks ago which sees staff switched to other duties or staying at home until production picks up. Although it has previously used the process when production ebbs and flows, the latest introduction is directly linked to the issues surrounding the sale.

Rumours are rife that Mr Bahar is trying to find backers to buy Group Lotus, but it has also emerged that in December he agreed a three-year contract extension after Proton brought forward his contract talks by 12 months. And in an recent interview Mr Bahar conceded that progress at Hethel will slow down.

'The immediate problem is to manage the cash in the business carefully during the 60-day pause, but I am confident that this is a temporary technical issue,' Mr Bahar said.

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One company worker, who did not want to be named, said staff were currently carrying out other duties such as cleaning and painting, and the slowdown was closer to four weeks. 'It is the worst it has been for some time,' the worker said.

A Group Lotus spokeswoman said: 'Production has not stopped, what we have embarked upon, in our production facility only, is a banked working time process which is our standard business practice to manage the expected variations in production demand throughout the year. We have successfully done this many times in the past and our flexible and cooperative workforce makes this possible'.

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