Profits crash at McLaren despite boost from F1


McLaren should have had a golden year financially in 2008. The team won the world championship with Lewis Hamilton and, according to the group's accounts to 31 December 2008, which were released earlier this week, revenue from sales of its SLR cars increased 17.1% to 91.4m. However, as Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt reports in today's Express, despite these boosts, McLaren's bottom line crashed 40.6% giving the group an after-tax loss of 44m. Bearing in mind that McLaren was hit hard in 2007 by the 63.5m fine paid to the FIA for being in possession of Ferrari's blueprints, how on earth did its fortunes manage to reverse even further?

Remarkably, even though the recession was gathering pace in 2008, McLaren sold 93 more SLR cars than the previous year. This was driven by the launch of a new convertible model of the SLR and it had an equally potent engine driving its revenue from F1.

Hamilton's victory led to an increase in bonuses paid by sponsors and the team's revenues accelerated 9% to 139.1m. In total the group had its highest-ever turnover of 264.9m in 2008 but its bottom line was a different story. McLaren's F1 team cut 500,000 of costs leaving it with a pre-tax profit of 14m - up from a 35.4m loss the previous year when it was hit with the FIA fine. However, the automotive division was not so lucky.

McLaren made a 42.8m pre-tax loss on car manufacturing and sales in 2008, down sharply from a loss of 3.5m the previous year, and the reason for this is unusual to say the least. According to the accounts, the group spent 49m on research and development during 2008 despite no programme being formally approved by the board for this. The eventual fruit of this investment was the MP412-C supercar which had its media launch the following year in September 2009.

If the research and development spend had not been accounted for as an expense the group would have reported a 15.9m pre-tax profit, up from a 20.8m loss in 2007. Its cash decreased by 22.7m during the year to fuel its spending and net debt increased 22.7m to 30.2m largely due to a 22.2m increase in bank loans and overdraft.

It doesn't seem to put the group and its current owners Ron Dennis, Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahraini Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund in good stead for buying back the 40% of its shares which were owned by Daimler. The accounts shed further light on why the German auto giant may have chosen to pull out and put its money in Brawn as it increased the amount it paid to McLaren by 2.6m in 2008 giving a total of 44.3m to power the team to victory.

The accounts don't rule out further borrowing being taken out to support the group's spending as they state that "there are no charges or forms of security held over the assets of the group, which are substantial, and if necessary these assets could be utilised to secure additional funding." The net book value of its tangible assets is 246.3m with freehold land and buildings, including its Norman Foster-designed factory, comprising the bulk of this at a value of 193.8m.

With its F1 and car manufacturing work stepping up a gear in 2008 the group bucked the downward trend of the car industry and took on 140 staff giving it a total of 1,500 with the bulk of the new recruits being in engineering and administration. Total employee costs increased 8m to 80.2m with the highest-paid director, believed to be Ron Dennis, getting a 3% pay rise to 2.4m. If it wasn't for the black mark on the group's bottom line it would be tough to argue with this.

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Published: 10/01/2010
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