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May 26, 2017 @ 9:52

China billionaire Li Shufu adds Proton, Lotus to expanding car empire


BEIJING: Chinese billionaire Li Shufu is buying Malaysia’s unprofitable national carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd pretty much for two reasons: access to 600 million consumers in Southeast Asia and the brand cachet of Lotus Cars.

Li’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which also owns the upscale Sweden-based Volvo Cars, announced on Wednesday that it will buy 49.9 percent of Proton and a 51 percent stake in Lotus Cars. The two parties are still in talks about transaction price for the stake in Proton, Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar, group managing director of DRB-Hicom Bhd., which is selling the stake, said.

By investing in the Malaysian auto group, Li is betting he’ll gain an inroad into Southeast Asia, a region with an expanding middle class that the Chinese government is also investing in as part of its “Belt and Road” infrastructure development initiative.

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