Norfolk MP seeks fresh assurances about Lotus Cars amid revelations that KPMG has been tasked with finding a buyer for the firm
Norfolk MP Richard Bacon is seeking fresh assurances about the future of Lotus Cars amid fresh revelations that its owners had tasked a leading accountancy firm to find a buyer for it.
Rumours have been rife that new owners DRB-Hicom, which bought Lotus's parent company Proton in January, could be seeking a quick sale of the loss making sports car maker with Chinese firm China Youngman, which already has links with Lotus, being tipped as a potential buyer.
That has sparked fears that production could be shipped overseas, but in the last seven days DRB insisted that a decision has not been taken to sell Lotus and the company was still committed to supporting the firm.
However in a debate about the car maker in the House of Commons on Tuesday night South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon told MPs that KPMG had been tasked with selling Group Lotus to a Chinese buyer raising further questions about DRB's true intentions.
'The fact that KPMG has been appointed with a mandate to sell Group Lotus to the Chinese is not an encouraging sign,' he said. 'Nor is the fact that the Malaysian banks want their money back from Proton. I fear that Proton will say that it has decided to keep Lotus, while negotiating with the banks for as long as possible to write off or reduce debt, then either hand what is left of Group Lotus to the Chinese or liquidate it.
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KPMG declined to comment yesterday and referred all press inquiries to either Lotus or DRB-Hicom, and it is not clear if a decision to appoint them was taken by them or Proton officials.
But Mr Bacon told the EDP that the ongoing confusion was another reason that the government needed to keep up the pressure on the Malaysians to ensure that if a sale was to go ahead any deal kept manufacturing in Norfolk.
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He urged the government to put all possible pressure on the Malaysian Government to ensure that DRB-Hicom permits the sale of Group Lotus only to a bidder who will provide credible guarantees for the future of the business as an ongoing concern in Norfolk.
'I would like the British Government to make very clear to the Malaysian Government, and to DRB-Hicom, that they consider the issue of local jobs in Norfolk to be of crucial importance and that a betrayal of the kind we have seen elsewhere in the corporate sector is unacceptable and would have far-reaching consequences,' he added.
The government has agreed to allocate more than �10m from its regional growth fund to support plans to expand production at Hethel, but a decision to release the cash has been put on hold until the future of Lotus is clarified.
During Tuesday's adjournment debate it also emerged that business secretary Vince Cable had earlier spoken to Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar about the latest situation.
A department for business innovation and skills spokesman said the government would not be commenting on what was said but added the telephone conversation was a scheduled discussion between the two men.
Business minister Mark Prisk also revealed that the British high commissioner in Malaysia recently wrote to Proton following prime minister David Cameron's visit to the country when he raised the issue with the company and his Malaysian counterpart.