McLaren Says ‘No Discussions’ are Taking Place with Apple

LONDON/NEW YORK — McLaren damped down reports that Apple Inc. had made an approach for the British Formula One team owner and supercar maker.

“We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment,” a McLaren spokesman said.

“As you would expect, the nature of our brand means we regularly have confidential conversations with a wide range of parties, but we keep them confidential.”

Apple, which has been working on a self-driving electric car for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, the Financial Times reported, citing three unnamed people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago.

The company is more likely to make a large investment than an outright acquisition, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Apple is interested in McLaren for its technology, engineering prowess and patent portfolio, the newspaper said, citing people briefed on the talks.

McLaren was likely to be valued at between 1 billion pounds and 1.5 billion pounds ($1.3 billion and $1.95 billion) the paper said. That would make it Apple’s biggest acquisition since the $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics, the audio group founded by Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, in 2014.

Apple is also in talks with Lit Motors, a startup company in San Francisco that makes an electric self-balancing motorcycle, The New York Times reported today, noting that Apple already has hired several former Lit Motors engineers. Lit Motors declined comment, the Times report said.

A spokesman for Apple declined comment.

Cash pile

In a call with analysts earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested Apple would do more acquisitions and strategic investments. Apple had $232 billion in cash at the end of June, about $215 billion of that is kept outside of the U.S., Cook told investors in July.

Many analysts have speculated that Apple would buy Tesla Motors Inc., deemed a good fit because it sells electric cars with self-driving capabilities.

Buying a stake in McLaren is less obvious because the U.K. company is best known for luxury cars that go very fast. What’s more, the company lacks mass-manufacturing capabilities. McLaren can make only a few thousand cars a year, compared with mainstream automakers with several factories each cranking out hundreds of thousands of autos each year.

Dominic O’Brien, a London-based analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said acquiring McLaren would be a “strange move” for Apple. “They wouldn’t gain manufacturing scale or much know-how about mass-produced cars,” he said. “McLaren isn’t known for electric cars or its autonomous driving capability.”

Apple is working on a self-driving project dubbed Project Titan, according to people familiar with the plan. The company recently hired the former head of BlackBerry Ltd.’s automotive software division and has continued to raid auto companies for engineers with expertise in designing vehicle manufacturing systems.

The question, said William Blair & Co. analyst Anil Doradla, is whether Apple uses McLaren as a “tech incubator” or for “rolling out a car.”

Reuters, Bloomberg and Automotive News staff contributed to this report.
Apple also in talks with motorcyle startup, Lit Motors, report says