Proton chairman Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh has confirmed that he is one of the bidders for Khazanah Nasional’s 42.7% stake in the national carmaker. Apart from this “management buyout” bid, other parties linked to the deal are DRB-Hicom and the Naza Group.

He revealed that Proton’s management took the matter to him few months ago after rumours of interest in Proton from various parties surfaced. They then asked him to make a bid for it because of his experience in setting up Proton and leading the group in the past.

Nadzmi believes that privatisation is the way to go for Proton, which would enable him to restructure the whole group to turn it around. “I know the business well, and Proton is close to my heart. There is a potential in Proton and that is why I dare to make a bid, and the offer runs into billions,” he told StarBiz.

He however did not reveal the offer that he had submitted, saying that an offer for the net tangible asset price of Proton will be too high as Proton is not an easy project. The man added that he is already in talks with some foreign banks regarding financing.

He has firm plans to recoup back his investment, should he succeed. “It is all about how you juggle your assets. This could be done by increasing the utilisation rate of Proton’s assets, cost reduction and also increasing Proton’s exports. These steps could easily add a further RM500mil to RM600mil to Proton’s bottom line.

“Besides the increased utilisation of the Tanjung Malim plant, Proton needs to transform itself to be a global player, and I believe the upcoming model codenamed P3-21A will be the global car that will transform Proton’s DNA. The car will be a completely different car with better material and design coupled with modern features. One thing is for sure, Proton’s DNA will shift to a higher gear with the plans in place,” he said.

Speaking of Tanjung Malim, which is utilised at an average of 52% now, “Proton can raise its utilisation rate by having tie-ups with other brands to assemble or manufacture their products,” Nadzmi opines, while confirming reports that General Motors (GM) is interested in the plant.

Tie-ups with foreign parties is key, citing examples like Proton’s recent deals with long time partner Mitsubishi and Chinese company Hawtai, but Nadzmi does not believe that Proton needs a global OEM to turn the company around. “I hope to do a lot more tie-ups with other brands, as Malaysia today has a lot of capacity, with more collaborations and on a multi-franchise business model, it would be easier to control the local automotive industry.

“Contrary to what some might say, that Proton needs a global OEM to turn the company around, Proton is essentially a brand with Asian roots. How would it fit into the portfolio of a global OEM with its collaborations with MMC and other joint ventures? It would clash with the interest of Proton whereby OEMs like MMC would not be willing to collaborate further as they would run the risk of exposing trade secrets to third parties in the form of another global OEM in the picture,” he explained.

How about the cash hungry subsidiary Group Lotus? “If I buy Proton, I will cut it off, and probably retain a 20 to 30% stake, which translates to a lot of savings every year. There is a lot of potential buyers for Lotus, and once a deal is signed it will be written back to the books of Proton,” he said.