HR Owen rolls into Malaysian hands

The posh car dealer is about to be bought by Berjaya Philippines - the latest asset to be bought by Malaysian investors.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 13 Sep 2013
Supercar dealer HR Owen – best known for its showroom on London’s Park Lane which, with its ranks of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, is as much of a tourist attraction as Hyde Park, across the road – has been sold to Malaysian-owned investment firm Berjaya Philipines.

The FTSE-listed company has recommended an offer by Vincent Tan – BPI’s owner and the controller of Cardiff City FC - for 170p a share, which values it at about £43m. BPI also bought up a 10% stake in the business from JPMorgan, which pushes its total holding up to 41.5%.

HR Owen – whose board has included Pink Floyd drummer (and consummate piston-head) Nick Mason – is the latest UK asset to fall into Malaysian hands. Battersea Power Station is the big one: it was bought by SP Setia and Sime Derby last year for £400m. But Malaysian investors – and the country’s sovereign wealth fund in particular – have turned their attentions to increasing numbers of UK assets over recent years.

Detractors will argue that British brands are dropping like flies as they fall into foreign hands.

But although this is technically a hostile takeover (the brand’s board rejected a £32.5m takeover bid from BPI in July), strategically, the buyout is a great idea: after all, the biggest market for supercars is currently in wealthy Asian states like Malaysia and the UAE, rather than the rain-sodden streets of London. And as one of the best-known brands in the business, HR Owen could make a killing out there.

And it’s not as though the brand didn’t have interest from foreign shores in the first place: Bentley (which is, lest we forget, itself owned by Volkswagen) owns just under 28% of the business. So to complain about another British brand falling into foreign hands would rather be shutting the stable door several years after the horse has bolted.

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