Tony O'Kane | Feb 1, 2012

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar is reportedly on the hunt for partners to help back a takeover bid for the British sports car manufacturer.

Lotus is presently owned by Malaysian automaker Proton, which itself recently underwent a significant ownership shakeup when Malaysian car distributor DRB-Hicom acquired 42.7 percent of Proton from the Malaysian Government late last year.

Proton had given much support to its loss-making Lotus unit since it acquired the company in 1996, and had backed a GBP200m plan to revitalise the British company's stagnant model line up with at least five all-new models - starting with the new Esprit.

Under the plan, production was expected to double to at least 7000 units by 2014, and Lotus also managed to secure a GBP10m loan to establish a new engineering research centre at its home base in Hethel.

However, industry observers believe that plan may soon be in jeopardy, with DRB-Hicom reportedly skeptical that Lotus - which delivered a pre-tax loss of GBP20m last year - can ever overcome its niche status and become a volume-selling sports car maker.

Bahar would be understandably nervous if Proton was to dump Lotus. Without the money to develop its next generation of vehicles and bring them to market, Group Lotus would be dead in the water.

According to the Sunday Times, Bahar is seeking partners to back a buyout of Lotus from Proton. The business won't be cheap either: Bahar is reportedly looking for a backer that can support Lotus' future model plans, which could cost as much as GBP500m.

However Bahar may have competition from Luxembourg-based investment company Genii Capital, which currently owns the Lotus Formula One team and is also rumoured to be interested in acquiring Group Lotus from Proton.

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