Chinese Automotive company Geely Zhejiang has confirmed its intention to acquire almost 50 percent (49.9%) stake at Proton from parent company DRB-Hicom. Geely’s acquisition of Proton marks another major Chinese auto investment in Southeast Asia.
Geely, parent company of Hong Kong-based Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd and Sweden’s Volvo Car Group, would also acquire 51 percent of Proton unit Lotus, the companies said. Prior to Geely’s acquisition which was kick-started about a year ago, other automakers interested in Proton were; the PSA Group, Suzuki Motor Corporation and Renault.
Chinese automakers increasingly see Southeast Asia as a growth market as their technological know-how and vehicle quality improves. Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp moved to build a plant in Indonesia in 2015 and formed a joint venture in Thailand three years earlier, while Dongfeng Motor Group (0489.HK) is also interested in the region
The investment comes on the back of deals worth billions of dollars signed recently between China and Malaysia, but Proton is an asset wrapped in national pride as an emblem of the country’s post-independence industrialization and economic growth. “Proton will always remain a national car and a source of pride, as Proton will still have a majority hold of 50.1 percent,” Malaysia’s Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said at a press conference to announce the deal.
At present, the value of the actual investment has not yet been released. In a latest press statement by DRB-Hicom, the entire agreement will be officially sealed some time in July.
Geely is expected to offer Proton some of the latest vehicle technologies it has developed with Volvo’s input, with the aim of growing its sales overseas and recovering some of the global presence the Malaysian carmaker has lost in recent years.
With Geely onboard, there may yet be a light at the end of the tunnel for Proton after several years of struggling; be it coming up with new models, after-sales or steep decline in sales or domestic TIV (Total Industry Volume). Even after the Suzuki partnership, new models from Proton are rare; which put the brand in a deeper dilemma in a very competitive automotive market. However, a Government bail-out of RM 1.5 billion on April 2016 with a condition to seek out a foreign partner is apparently effective to assist in the rejuvenation of the national carmakers.
Aside from the South East Asian market, Geely would be able to utilize Proton’s current export markets such as the United Kingdom, India and Australia.