Slim one of four speaking to Honda
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, December 28th 2008, 10:35 GMT|
Honda Racing are in talks with four potential buyers including wealthy Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, autosport.com has learned, but no deal has yet been completed.
Reports emerging out of South America on Saturday suggested that Slim, ranked as the world's second richest man behind American investor Warren Buffett, had actually finalised a contract to take over Honda.
Italian newspaper La Stampa also wrote that Slim had agreed a deal that would see the team line-up on the grid in 2009 with Jenson Button and Bruno Senna as their drivers.
However, although talks are progressing well, it is understood that the situation remains unchanged from how it was just before Christmas, with public confirmation of the progress of the buyout discussions unlikely before the New Year.
Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry had told autosport.com earlier this month that there had been encouraging progress in finding a buyer.
"We have had a high level of interest in the team since Honda Motor Co. announced their withdrawal from Formula One," Fry said. "Since that time, Ross and I have been engaged in ongoing discussions with several serious potential new owners who have expressed an interest in purchasing the team."
Sources have told autosport.com that there are four parties considering getting involved - with Slim believed to be heading the running at the moment.
Although the identity of the buyers has not been confirmed, it is believed that apart from Slim they are Prodrive boss David Richards with the Kuwait-based Investment Dar Company (TID), Greek shipping magnate Achilleas Kallakis and an unidentified Swiss group.
Force India boss Vijay Mallya had also been linked with the team, but this is believed to have been purely an interest in the assets should the team have been closed and their facilities put up for sale.
Original contact between Honda Racing chiefs and Slim was made late last season, with discussions primarily based on a potential sponsorship link-up between his Telmex company and the team.
This came about through the team's interest in Senna, who is sponsored by Embratel, a Brazilian subsidiary of Telmex.
When Honda announced that it was to quit F1, the sponsorship talks changed into buyout discussions - with Slim recently making a big push to invest heavily in business expansion despite the worldwide economic slowdown.
Slim, who also owns the mobile phone company America Movil, recently increased his stake in American luxury retailers Saks to 18 percent. At the start of December his Inbursa brokerage in Mexico bought $150 million (USD) of shares in Citigroup after their price sank to levels not seen since the early 1990's.
Slim visited Honda Racing's Brackley headquarters just before Christmas, but the holiday period has put a temporary hold on discussions before talks can resume in the next week to try and sort out a deal in early January.