An American car dealership giant is in advanced talks to buy Jardine Motors, one of the largest automotive retail groups in Britain, for about £300m.
Sky News has learnt that Lithia Motors, which has a market capitalisation on the New York Stock Exchange of more than $6.5bn, is within weeks of finalising a deal to buy its UK-based peer.
One insider cautioned that a deal remained under discussion and could yet fall apart.
If successfully completed, it would see Jardine Motors being sold by Jardine Matheson Holdings, the historic Hong Kong-headquartered conglomerate.
Jardine Matheson owns assets including the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain and Hong Kong Land.
Sources said a takeover would give Lithia a substantial foothold in the UK, with access to luxury car brands including Ferrari and Maserati.
Lithia is committed to using the Jardine Motors business as a platform for growth, they added.
It would be the latest in a string of attempted deals in the sector, with Pendragon recently having ended talks about a takeover by its largest shareholder.
Lithia itself also tried to buy Pendragon last year.
Other big players in the sector include Lookers, while major online competitors such as Cazoo have suffered from the global sell-off in technology stocks.
Jardine Motors was acquired as a single East Anglia dealership by Jardine Matheson in the early 1990s.
It employs roughly 2,700 people at 50 sites across the UK, according to its website.
Brands sold at its dealerships include Ferrari, Jaguar, McLaren and Porsche.
Responding to an enquiry from Sky News on Monday, a Lithia spokesman said: “Lithia has a stated desire to expand into the UK market and has held discussions with Jardine Matheson with a view to investing in Jardine Motors Group UK.
“Jardine Motors Group UK is one of the UK’s leading automotive retailers and Lithia firmly believes that a combination of the two businesses will help to deliver significant value for employees, partners and customers.
“Lithia views the potential acquisition of Jardine Motors as a platform for future growth in the UK and plans to invest in the business, working with Jardine Motors’ market-leading management team to build on the strong momentum the Group has generated in recent years.
“Discussions around a potential transaction are ongoing and a further update will be issued in due course.”
Jardine Motors has yet to reveal financial results for 2022, but saw revenues rise 19% in 2021, with an operating profit of £28m.
A Jardine Motors spokesman declined to comment.
It was unclear whether its London-listed parent company would also issue a statement confirming the talks.
Rothschild is advising Jardine on the talks, while Deloitte is advising Lithia.