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McLaren denies report of Apple deal talks

The British supercar maker puts brakes on Financial Times' report of a potential deal -- although its wording of that denial is open to interpretation.

McLaren Technology Group denied Wednesday that Apple is investing in the Formula 1 constructor, known for its advanced automotive engineering and software technologies.

"We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment," a McLaren spokesman said. He declined to elaborate, leaving open the possibility of an acquisition.

Earlier in the day, the Financial Times reported that Apple is "considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment," citing three people familiar with the negotiations. That could value McLaren at between £1 billion and £1.5 billion ($1.3 billion to $1.9 billion). Negotiations have been going on for months, the paper said.

Apple declined to comment.

"While McLaren may be best known for its luxury cars, its McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) division should be more interesting to Apple (and others)," Wells Fargo Securities' analyst Maynard Um wrote in a note to investors. Um mentioned McLaren's sensor and predictive analytics technologies as particularly interesting. "That McLaren would also bring design elements, engineering, and electronic control systems to the table would be a bonus," he said.

The report of the talks come as Apple's secretive car effort, code-named Project Titan, has apparently shifted focus away from electric vehicles toward self-driving technology. In July, Bloomberg reported the iPhone maker had hired the former head of Blackberry's automotive software division. Earlier this month, Apple reportedly shut down parts of the project and let go of "dozens of employees," according The New York Times.

McLaren's capabilities in manufacturing lightweight materials, developing in-car electronics and vehicle dynamics are widely viewed as some of the best in the automotive industry, all of which would seem to make it a good target for Apple.

A deal for the supercar maker would mark Apple's most-expensive acquisition since 2014's $3 billion Beats Electronics buy.

Later on Wednesday, The New York Times not only reiterated the McLaren talk rumors, it also claimed that Apple has been engaging San Francisco's Lit Motors in acquisition talks. The small startup is working to bring a self-balancing electric motorcycle to market.

First published September 21 at 8:43 a.m. PT.
Update, 10:29 a.m. PT: to include McLaren denial.
Update, 11:40 a.m. PT: to add analyst's comment and background on Project Titan.
Update, 1:22 p.m. PT: to reference The New York Times' report on Apple's Lit Motors talks.