Lotus moves to dispel another careless whisper (w/Statement)

News of Lotus’ demise has been greatly exaggerated, following a report this morning that it was being liquidated. The news, first published in Autocar, wrongly reported that the company’s appearance on a winding up list was akin to a liquidation order – which of course it is not.

The Norfolk sports car maker has been at pains to diffuse the rumour after it was listed on the Companies Court Winding Up List when a petition was filed earlier in the year. Winding up petitions are tactics used by creditors to force payment of an outstanding debt, and if not responded to, can lead to a compulsory liquidation order.

There has been no such ‘order’ issued to Group Lotus Plc (winding up, liquidation or otherwise), which raises questions about the editorial oversight behind other such headlines on Autocar.

I spoke this morning with Lotus and with DRB-Hicom’s representative in the UK, who were able to confirm this as a contractual dispute, which reached the courts, but has since been amicably resolved.

We understand the winding-up petition has since been withdrawn (with no court order being raised), hence the deep dark rumours published in Autocar this morning were both premature and inaccurate.

While there is much happening in the background at DRB-Hicom, Lotus Cars has been busy engaging with customers, continuing with the launch of the Exige S and most importantly delivering cars. (See tweets below)

My view has been to let them get on with it for the time being, while we await to hear more concrete plans on DRB-Hicom’s partnership with Honda and exactly how it plans to grow the output of Malaysia’s national car maker, Proton.

DRB continues with the acquisition and disposal of companies within its group, including the purchase of composite aircraft maker Composites Technology Research Malaysia, which it completed last month for £63 million.

A turnaround plan is due to be unveiled for Proton later this month, while there was even talk of DRB’s owner, billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, taking over Malaysia Airlines.

Put simply, Lotus are much further down the list of DRB’s priorities and are being left to get on with rebuilding their business after last year’s takeover disruption.

Former CEO, Dany Bahar, continues his £6.7m claim for wrongful dismissal, which will be heard at the High Court in June 2014.

Meanwhile, Lotus dealers here in the UK report renewed interest in the range, with confidence picking up now that its backlog of orders are being fulfilled. (I bet they’re delighted by Autocar’s careless reporting of the matter)

They’re not out of the water yet, but at least there are genuine signs of a recovery, so while this winding up petition ‘may’ serve to undermine some of the confidence that’s been restored, it’s unlikely to imply anything more sinister.

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