After Aston Martin's long-awaited announcement confirming that it will float on the London Stock Exchange, CEO Andy Palmer talks to Autocar about whether things will change at the 105-year-old British car maker.
What does an Aston initial public offering (IPO) mean to Autocar readers and the product plan?
In the immediate future, not a great deal. When you go to an IPO, you sell a story. Our plan is well known; seven cars over seven years, with seven-year product cycles, copy, repeat. We’ve now got a level of acceptance that our plan is legitimate and supported by those people buying; they approve of the plan. I’ve been very vocal on the plan; some say it’s very ambitious. City experts look at it next to different companies and the principle of the story, and vote with a valuation.
Ferrari offered an IPO in 2015 and has since doubled in value. Does that give you encouragement?
Ferrari is the only real comparison. It has helped us. Ferrari has shown that a car company can exist and compete in the luxury space and have value. I don’t have to prove it again, as Ferrari has proven it. We’re going further than Ferrari by having a car in all key luxury and high-performance segments; we cover models by Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari as a one-stop shop.
Does this leave Aston open to a takeover from another car maker?
We’re actually more vulnerable today. One company has only got to convince one or two shareholders, get them to agree and then they’ve got over half the company. Going public, we have tens of thousands of shareholders, and we’re protected on some effects. You could acquire shares by stealth, but when you get to 3% you’d have to declare. We’re aware of predators, but I’ve said to my team to make the company as valuable as possible so they can’t afford us.
Who would you describe as predators?
Aston has always been a jewel, but we’re quite different now with Daimler as a shareholder [it owns 5% of Aston and supplies it with Mercedes engines and components]. But, with that, we’re a bit of a poison pill; if other car makers come in, Daimler can consider them a rival and not supply parts. Of our initial 25%, we’re looking for long-term investors.
Is the IPO designed to raise money for Aston?
It’s not to raise money for us. All funds are secured and this is more for shareholders to get a return on their investment. It’s also about bringing good governance to the company, so we can have success in our second century. I hope to leave a legacy behind, with an independent chairman and board, a structure that is secure and stops us making the mistakes of the past.
How significant a day is this for Aston?