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Aston Martin gears up for more growth ahead of possible flotation

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Aston Martin gears up for more growth ahead of possible flotation
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By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin remained in the black in the first quarter of 2018, although pretax profit fell due to a weaker dollar and investment on a series of model launches.

After six years of losses, James Bond’s favourite carmaker swung to a pretax profit in 2017, fuelling speculation of a potential stock market listing.

Finance chief Mark Wilson reiterated on Monday the decision would be a matter for its shareholders, mainly Italian private equity fund Investindustrial and a group of Kuwaiti investors.

“We continue to look at our options and we are continuing to execute on the plan and that gives our shareholders the most options available to them,” he told Reuters, when asked about a flotation that one source familiar with the matter has said could value the firm at 4 billion pounds.

Pretax profit fell by just over half to 2.8 million pounds in the first three months of the year due to the weaker dollar, as around a third of its demand comes from customers buying in dollars or a currency pegged to it.

At constant currencies, profit rose to 7.4 million pounds.

Aston Martin also boosted investment by nearly a half to 68 million pounds ahead of the launch of a series of new models as it underwent a changeover plan that saw sales fall by 20 percent to 963 vehicles in the quarter.

Like the rest of the automotive sector, the company is pushing ahead with plans for hybrid and electric models to meet more stringent emissions rules and an eventual ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in Britain.

The government has yet to clarify whether that will include hybrid vehicles, which comprise both a conventional combustion engine and electric propulsion, prompting Aston’s boss to criticise ministers on Twitter earlier this month.

Asked whether the inclusion of hybrids in the ban would be a blow and change the firm’s future thinking, Wilson said: “It wouldn’t significantly.”

“We have always said that we go from gasoline to BEV (battery electric vehicle) with only step along the way into hybrid so hybrid has always been a transitional technology.”

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Mark Potter)

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