McLaren Group is to sell its technology arm to a private investment firm in the latest stage of its bid to refocus on its core motorsport and supercar manufacturing operations.
Sky News has learnt that McLaren has agreed the key points of an agreement to sell Applied, a division which sells innovative technology services such as telemetry and data analytics to corporate customers.
One source said the deal had yet to be finalised but acknowledged that it was close to a conclusion.
The buyer of Applied is understood to be Greybull Capital, an investor which has previously acquired prominent businesses in the UK including Plessey Semiconductors and Monarch Airlines.
Greybull is backing McLaren Applied’s existing management team, which is led by chief executive Anthony Murray, according to people close to the deal.
They added that the division would continue to operate from the spectacular McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, and continue to collaborate closely with its former owner.
Applied plans to use Greybull’s investment to accelerate growth in its key market segments such as automotive and public transport, the sources said.
Further details of the transaction, including its price, were unclear on Tuesday.
The unit came into existence under the name McLaren Applied Technologies in 2014, and employs approximately 250 people.
Greybull has invested substantial sums of money in companies operating in sectors often requiring urgent transformation, such as steel and aviation.
It owned British Steel, having acquired the struggling group from Tata Steel, for a short period but saw it collapse in 2019 after ministers refused to extend an emergency loan to the company.
However, Greybull enjoyed better fortune with investments such as Plessey, which last year agreed a lucrative supply deal with Facebook, as well as Arc Specialist Engineering and First Circle Packaging.
Confirmation of the Applied deal, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday, will come just weeks after McLaren Group struck an agreement that saw Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) participating in a £550m equity-raise.
The capital injection comprised £400m from PIF and Ares Management, a major global investment firm, with £150m provided by McLaren’s existing shareholders – who include Mumtalakat, the sovereign investment fund of Bahrain.
It paved the way for an immediate refinancing of McLaren’s bonds and represented a big vote of confidence in McLaren’s strategy under the leadership of Paul Walsh, the former Diageo chief who joined last year as executive chairman.
Mr Walsh is said to have ordered a strategic review of Applied in order to focus management’s attention on its profitable core divisions.
The Woking-based company endured a torrid start to the pandemic as it sought a government loan to shore up its balance sheet.
It was also forced into a restructuring of its workforce which saw hundreds of jobs axed.
Sales of its luxury road-cars have, however, rebounded strongly in recent months, while its racing fortunes have also continued to recover.
The latest equity-raise took the total funding raised by the group since Mr Walsh’s arrival to well over £1bn.
That figure comprises a £300m equity injection in March 2020, a £170m sale-and-leaseback of its spectacular Surrey headquarters and a £185m windfall from the sale of a separate stake in McLaren Racing to a consortium several months ago.
McLaren also secured a £150m loan from the National Bank of Bahrain, reflecting its close ties to the Gulf state, last year.
The sale of a stake in McLaren Racing, which comprises its F1 team and INDYCAR Championship outfit, came during a revival in its on-track fortunes after years in the doldrums.
Lando Norris, one of its F1 drivers, sits in third place in the drivers’ championship, with the team in joint-third – level with Ferrari – in the race for the constructors’ title.
The team is overseen by McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown.
Founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, the car marque is one of the most famous names in British motorsport.
During half a century of competing in F1, it has won the constructors’ championship eight times, while its drivers have included the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
In total, the team has won 180 Grands Prix, three Indianopolis 500s and the Le Mans 24 Hours on its debut.
The company, which employs about 3000 people, saw its separate divisions reunited following the departure in 2017 of Ron Dennis, the veteran McLaren boss who had steered its F1 team through the most successful period in its history.
He became one of Britain’s best-known businessmen, expanding McLaren’s technology ventures into a wide range of other industries through lucrative commercial partnerships.
Mr Dennis offloaded his stake in a £275m deal following a bitter dispute with fellow shareholders.
He had presented to McLaren’s board a £1.65bn takeover bid from a consortium of Chinese investors, but did not attract support for it from boardroom colleagues.
McLaren and Greybull declined to comment.