Apple is in talks to either acquire or make a major investment in a prominent luxury carmaker, according to a new report.
The tech giant (AAPL) is holding discussions to acquire or at least invest in U.K.-based luxury carmaker McLaren, Financial Times is reporting, citing three people who claim to have knowledge of the talks. McLaren would be valued at between one billion pounds to 1.5 billion pounds ($1.3 billion to $1.9 billion), the sources told Financial Times. A strategic investment in McLaren would likely cost Apple less, depending on how much of a chunk the iPhone maker acquires.
McLaren, which traces its roots to the 1960s, is one of the more prominent luxury carmakers in the world, and has sold cars for about $1 million each. The company is also heavily involved in Formula One. McLaren produced approximately 1,500 cars last year.
The drama surrounding Apple’s interest in cars at least makes the rumor interesting. For the last few years, Apple has been said to be not-so-secretly developing a car. Apple caught headlines for hiring prominent automobile engineers, picking up employees from Tesla, and building a design team charged with making an all-electric vehicle, as elaborated in many reports. While Apple has not confirmed it’s actually working on a car, CEO Tim Cook has been coy when asked directly about a project. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has described Apple’s car interests as the “worst-kept secret” in Silicon Valley. He has also said that some of his company’s engineers, who he said couldn’t make it at Tesla, are now working for Apple.
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In recent weeks, however, reports have been swirling that Apple’s car efforts have hit a speed bump. The company has reportedly brought on former executive Bob Mansfield to address problems in the production process and pushed back the vehicle’s unveiling from 2020 to 2021. More recently, rumors surfaced saying that Apple has laid off some of its car employees and might be considering shelving the idea of producing a vehicle.
It’s unclear at first blush what a McLaren acquisition could mean for Apple. Tim Cook said in an April earnings calls that his company is open to a big acquisition, and buying a prominent car maker for nearly $2 billion would fit that mold. Apple’s biggest acquisition in recent memory was its $3 billion Beats buy in 2014. If Apple were to buy McLaren, it’s possible the company could use its engineering know-how to expedite its own car ambitions.
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That said, a report surfaced in July that Apple was considering buying Formula One, the world’s highest class of single-seat auto racing. While Apple again remained silent on the rumor, Joe Saward, a longtime and well-respected Formula One reporter who said the iPhone maker was considering an acquisition said such a deal could make sense. He noted that the deal, which would’ve been valued at $8 billion at the time, would help Apple’s car efforts and connect the Apple brand with a well-respected auto brand.
By acquiring McLaren, Apple could achieve similar results and have a connection to Formula One. However, the McLaren acquisition would be cheaper and give Apple access to the company’s engineers—an extremely valuable proposition if it indeed plans to build a car.
According to the Financial Times sources, Apple is most interested in McLaren’s technology, engineering, and patents—though they noted that in recent weeks Apple has started to focus more on underlying car technology rather than building a car itself.
Apple did not respond to a Fortune request for comment.
Update 09/21/16 at 1:04 p.m. ET: In a statement to Fortune, a McLaren spokesman said that “McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment.” The spokesman added that the company is “also not in discussion with Apple about an acquisition.” However, the spokesman did not say if the companies have held discussions about an investment or acquisition in the past.