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At last weekend's Indian Grand Prix the talk in the paddock focussed on the possibility of the Lotus team getting new investors. Nothing concrete came to light but all the while there were very solid talks going on in the background - just not about Lotus. In fact, as Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt reveals in the Guardian, the talks focussed on Marussia which is not just looking at getting new investors on board but is already in talks with some of them.
"The directors are in active discussions with potential new investors in the business and are also pursuing other sources of income including potential sponsorship and drivers. Some of these discussions are well advanced, although not yet completed, and so the outcome of each remains uncertain," admits the team's chief executive Andy Webb.
The team joined F1 in 2010 and is understood to be worth around £45m - around a quarter of F1's only listed team, Williams. Whilst Williams has nine championships to its name, Marussia's drivers Timo Glock and Charles Pic have yet to score a single point with the team.
A disastrous start in 2010, when Marussia finished last in the standings, impacted its finances the following year. Revenue, which is mainly derived from sponsorship and prize money, reversed 5% to £28.6m in the year to 31 December 2011. However, the team's costs rose 11% to £70m and in turn this widened its net loss by £11m. It meant that Marussia finished 2011 with a whopping after-tax loss of £49.3m.
Webb puts the increase in costs down to "significant investment in the team's personnel, infrastructure and factory." Staff numbers doubled as 46 employees were added in the production and engineering departments. Its biggest single cost is research and development investment which trebled last year to £31m as the team designed its own car for the first time rather than paying Wirth Research to outsource this.
The team finances its operations with debt from Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), the private equity division of government-owned bank Lloyds. Last year LDC gave the team £38.4m taking its total loans to £77.7m. LDC invested in it in 2009 and in November the following year a controlling stake was sold to Marussia, the Russian sports car manufacturer which the team is named after. Marussia now controls 70.6% of the team with the remainder of the shares owned by LDC. Two of the six slots on the board of the team are occupied by LDC's representatives - its chief executive Darryl Eales and Carl Wormald, the head of its Manchester office.
In 2011 the team's net debt came to £76.9m with £61m due after the end of this year. Webb says that "having considered the options available, the directors are confident that a combination of further finance from existing and potential new investors, together with other potential income from sponsors, drivers and Formula One Management (FOM), will enable the company and the group to meet its debts as they fall due."
The increased investment last year is showing signs of paying off as Marussia currently lies in tenth place. If it finishes the year in this position its prize money from FOM will increase around four-fold from the £6.2m it received last year. In turn this could wipe around £18.6m from the budget of last year's tenth placed team Caterham.
It could give Marussia just the boost it needs as Webb adds that its objective is to finish on the podium in the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014. It has a long way to go but at least it is heading in the right direction.
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