Motor racing: Renault to pay Lotus debts by end of year

LONDON (Reuters) - French carmaker Renault aims to complete its takeover of the Lotus Formula One team on Dec. 16 and pay creditors, including Britain’s tax authorities, by the end of the year, the High Court heard on Monday.

The logo of French car manufacturer Renault is seen in front of an advertisement at a dealership in Paris, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann - RTS6T3X

All parties in a protracted case brought against struggling Lotus by the Revenue and Customs authority over unpaid tax, with other creditors also represented, agreed to a further adjournment to Dec. 21.

“We are in a different territory now,” a lawyer for the team told the court.

“You got away with it...or rather, it has been got away with,” commented the judge, Mr Justice Birss, after hearing none of the creditors objected to the adjournment that he said was clearly in the best interests of all parties.

The alternative would have been to put Lotus into administration.

Renault, currently an engine supplier to former world champions Red Bull, announced last week they would be returning to Formula One as a full constructor by taking a controlling stake in Lotus.

Lotus, formerly owned by Renault before a race-fixing scandal broke in 2009, have limped to the finish line this season with current owners, Luxembourg-based Genii, injecting only enough cash to keep the team alive.

Bailiffs impounded their cars after the Belgian Grand Prix in August and the team were denied access to the paddock hospitality in Japan due to unpaid bills.

Lotus chief executive Matthew Carter, who attended the hearing, said the remaining matters were merely procedural.

“It’s the 16th for the SPA (share purchase agreement) and they (Renault) are agreeing to pay all the creditors by the 31st,” he told Reuters outside the courtroom.

“So I guess when we come back on the 21st it will be to ensure that the SPA has been signed.

“It’s been an interesting process all the way through but we are where we are,” said Carter who said his own future with the team had yet to be decided.

Genii Capital chairman and current Lotus principal Gerard Lopez told Reuters at the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi last month that he would retain a shareholding in the team.

“Everyone’s time and effort has been focused on getting this across the line and now I guess we take stock of the situation and decide which way Renault want to jump,” said Carter.

“We’ll see how Renault want to run things and what their plans are.”

Editing by Tony Jimenez