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'Business as usual' at Lotus cars

Bosses at car-maker Lotus have insisted it is "business as usual" despite the Malaysian government selling its controlling stake in its parent company.

Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom Berhad says it is keeping its options open about selling the loss-making British manufacturer after buying its parent company Proton.

Group Lotus, based at Hethel in Norfolk, insisted the deal would not alter plans to turn the company around.

The directors' report to March 2011 showed the firm made a pre-tax loss of £26.1 million, compared to a loss of nearly £12 million in 2010.

Proton had pledged to fund a £200 million plan aimed at creating hundreds of new jobs and transforming the manufacturer from a niche brand to a profitable sports car company rivalling Ferrari and Lamborghini by 2014.

A Group Lotus spokesman said: "It doesn't change anything for us at the moment. The situation that's currently going on in Malaysia doesn't change anything. Our plan remains the same - it's business as usual."

DRB-Hicom, which distributes and assembles Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Honda, also said it is in talks with its foreign partners on possible tie-ups to revive the national car-maker but ruled out selling a stake in Proton.

Managing director Mohamad Khamil Jamil said that DRB-Hicom would conduct due diligence on Lotus before making a decision.

Proton bought Lotus in 1996 to bolster its technological know-how, but losses at Lotus have weighed on the company.

DRB-Hicom announced a £625 million deal to take over Proton on Monday, in a new chapter for the struggling car-maker.

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