The word on the harbour front in Monte Carlo is that the Abu Dhabi investment company Aabar Investments has bought shares in Scuderia Toro Rosso. The team is saying nothing at the moment, but multiple well-placed sources say that a deal is done. The Italian team announced a sponsorship deal last week with Falcon Private Bank, which is a Swiss private bank which specialises in wealth management for private clients, such as Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. The reality is that Falcon is owned by Aabar, which has discovered Formula 1 through its investment in Mercedes GP Petronas in the course of the last 18 months. Aabar is an investment company and the likelihood is that investment in the team is simply strategic and will be like the deal Credit Suisse deal that was done some years ago by Sauber, which left the management in place and gave the bank publicity. The stake was later sold to BMW.
Aabar is ultimately controlled by the Abu Dhabi government, but that is done through the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), another government investment business which has dealings in the oil world. In February, for example, it bought the Spanish oil company CEPSA from France’s Total for a deal worth $5 billion. It would be no surprise, therefore, to see the Spanish company branding appearing on the Toro Rossos in the months ahead. This will increase Spanish interest in the team, specifically in Jaime Alguersuari. Cepsa runs a network of 1,700 service stations in Spain and would probably benefit from F1 kind of exposure. It remains to be seen what other brands might appear but Aabar also owns shares in Santander Brazil and various other companies. IPIC owns shares in a variety of other businesses, including several Austrian firms, OMV oils and the Borealis petrochemical company. Other investments have been made in Cosmo Oil in Japan, Germany’s Ferrostaal, Canada’s Nova chemicals and various power companies.
It is also worth noting that Aabar has also launched a €750 million bond issue, which are exchangeable for shares in Daimler AG. Aabar bought the Daimler state in March 2009 for $2.7 billion. The bond issue covers 1.1 percent of Daimler’s shares. Aabar currently owns nine percent of the German company, in addition to its investment in the Mercedes F1 team. The longterm implications of such an investment could be such things as a Mercedes engine deal for the team, or perhaps a junior team status with Mercedes. It remains to be seen what becomes reality but the investment seems to have been made.