June 28, 2017

Proton deal to help Geely rev up in SE Asia market

25 May 2017, 10:19 | Archie Newman

2017 Lotus Evora Sport 410 Enlarge

2017 Lotus Evora Sport 410

But this is just part of a larger deal to acquire a 49.9 percent stake in Proton, the struggling Malaysian company now owned by DRB-HICOM. Last year, Proton received 1.5bn ringgit (£280.6m, $364m) in financial aid contingent on it finding a foreign partner.

It's an exciting deal for auto enthusiasts for one key reason - Proton owns Lotus Cars, a brand that itself has been struggling to emerge from the ruinous Dany Bahar era.

The deal, for 49% of Selangor-based Proton, will also see Geely take control of Lotus, a British maker of sports and racing cars.

The fresh cash injection means the troubled 30-year-old Proton brand gains a stay of execution, and can even potentially one day spin off a more premium sub-brand similar to the Geely-owned Lync and Co that will use Volvo's latest compact modular architecture underpinnings to build luxury SUVs. Its acquisition of Volvo in 2010 has been a success with Volvo recorded sales of 540,000 vehicles in 2016, an increase of over 200,000 units sold in 2009 prior to the acquisition.

"Both parties expect to sign the definitive agreement in July", a DRB-Hicom statement says.

Proton, controlled by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary's DRB-Hicom, was set up in 1983 by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to steer the Southeast Asian nation's industrialization plan.

After 34 years trying to drive Malaysia into the heady realms of the global vehicle industry, the country's money-losing first national auto company is ceding control to Chinese giant Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

Geely also sees a route through Proton to boosting deliveries in right-hand-drive markets including Malaysia, the U.K., India and Australia.

DRB-Hicom now owns 100 per cent of the manufacturer of the first national vehicle. "Our very own much-loved brand now has a real chance of making a comeback, a huge one I hope", Johari Abdul Ghani, Malaysia's Second Finance Minister said, as per Business Insider.

It bought 51% of Lotus from Malaysian automaker Proton Holdings.

After all, just look at what Geely stewardship has done for another famous brand it controls: Volvo.

In addition to Geely, several other companies expressed interest, including French carmaker PSA Group, Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp and French carmaker Renault Group. If Geely can revitalize Lotus the way it did Volvo, then the sports-car maker could finally be in for a smoother ride.

Would new Chinese ownership be a good thing for Lotus?

"Our target is to produce 3 million cars by 2020", he said. Geely is expected focus on younger drivers with the Lotus brand.

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