McLaren races into debt to shake off Mercedes and boost title chances


McLaren has long prided itself on being free of bank debt but it seems that situation has now changed and it may have come just at the right time. According to an article in the Express, by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt, the Woking-based Formula One team has taken out a loan for the first time since 2003. It will reportedly give the team funds to buy out former owner Mercedes and boost its championship chances. McLaren is second in the standings but lies 131 points adrift of Red Bull so it needs all the help it can lay its hands on.

Company documents seen by Sylt show that the loan is secured on the team's intellectual property, cash in the bank and land at its factory. Ironically, although Spanish bank Santander is a McLaren sponsor, the documents show that the loan was provided by HSBC. The reason for this is simply that banking relationships are usually built up over a longer period of time than sponsorship agreements, even for a team like McLaren which has some of the longest partnerships of any team in F1. It was banking with HSBC long before its sponsorship partnership with Santander began so it didn't turn to the Spanish bank for the debt.

The documents do not state the amount of debt provided but it is understood that it will need at least 50m to buy back Mercedes' remaining stake.

In November 2009 Mercedes agreed to sell its 40% stake in the team's parent company McLaren Group to the other shareholders - its executive chairman Ron Dennis, the Swiss TAG Group and the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat. Mercedes still holds 16% of the shares and, according to a source at McLaren, the debt will give it the capital to buy this back by the end of the year.

The source adds that the funding will also provide working capital for the team and this could give it a timely boost in its pursuit of Red Bull.

The third use for the funding will be investment in a new factory which is being built in Woking by McLaren Group to lease to its road car manufacturing division McLaren Automotive. In May last year the Group also took out a loan of over 40m from HSBC to fund construction of the new factory and the fruit of this is the MP4-12C 175,000 supercar which went on-sale last month. McLaren plans to build 1,000 cars in the factory which will employ 300 people. In June it opened a glittering showroom for the car in London's luxury One Hyde Park apartment block.

McLaren has been free of external debt since 2007 and according to the team's accounts for the year-ending 31 December 2009 it only had a 119,000 overdraft. The new loan changes that picture and time will tell whether it was worth it.

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Published: 04/09/2011
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