Group Lotus deal finalised by Chinese giant Geely

Pic New Straits Times

ZHEJIANG Geely Holding Group announced today that it has signed a final contract with DRB-HICOM of Malaysia, acquiring 49.9 percent shares of Malaysian automaker Proton and 51 percent shares of United Kingdom carmaker Lotus.

The definitive agreement between DRB-Hicom Bhd and China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely) is worth RM460.3 million. As a result, the deal also saw Geely adopt a 51 percent majority stake in Lotus, leaving the Chinese company in charge of the relatively small British manufacturer's operations.

Proton was formed in 1983 as part of an ambitious national industrialisation plan, but has suffered from a reputation for unimaginative models.

Geely has announced that it hopes to have completed its acquisition of the sports auto brand Lotus.

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For Geely, the $40 million cash payout is a pittance compared with the 1.3 billion ringgit ($304 million) DRB-Hicom paid to acquire a 42.74% stake in Proton from state investment fund Khazanah Nasional in January 2012.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stands on stage waiting for a signing ceremony between Proton and Geely in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, June 23, 2017. Chairman Li Shufu said the partnership with DRB-HICOM Bhd would bring good business opportunities for both companies, while taking the Proton and Lotus brands to a higher level.

"Geely will turnaround both companies in respect of profitability and pave the way for sustainable growth, while embracing new technological trends of electrification, light weighting and artificial intelligence".

"We will work together for the resurrection of Proton in Southeast Asia. we believe it won't be long before we achieve profitability", he said.

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But purchasing a controlling stake in British sports-car maker Lotus may be the biggest coup for Geely, which is known mainly for producing low-end cars in its home country.

Last year, Proton sold only 72,000 units, giving it barely 12 percent share of the domestic market, he said.

Najib said Proton had been in trouble, and the government was called upon to help the struggling firm with a soft loan, extended in 2016.

He hoped that the honest collaboration, would also help Proton regain market share in Malaysia and expand to Asean, while helping Lotus penetrate the global market. "He would still prefer Proton to be 100 per cent Malaysian-owned and lose hundreds of millions of ringgit a year", Datuk Seri Najib said, without explicitly naming anyone.

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