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Last week, it was reported that Proton is expected to announce its strategic partnership agreement with a foreign automaker next year sometime in the first quarter, with March 31 being the mentioned date.

Earlier today, at the launch of the Proton Ertiga, the automaker reiterated that it is looking to cement things by then, but added that the announcement might not be made in March. It also declined to reveal the trio of automakers shortlisted as potential partners.

“It is premature for us to mention the names because DRB-Hicom is a publicly-listed company, and the prospective partners could be publicly-listed companies,” Proton non-executive chairman Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Akbar told reporters at the press conference following the Ertiga launch.

Earlier reports had intimated that PSA Group, Renault and Suzuki were among interested parties seeking to buy into Proton.

In terms of decision making, Syed Faisal said the automaker should be able to announce a strategic partner by the first half of next year.

“We will strive as much as possible to close things by the end of first quarter, but the timing may be beyond our control because the partners also have other priorities. We would like to finish it by end of the first quarter, but certainly it will be concluded by the first half,” he said.

Earlier this year, the national carmaker received a soft loan of RM1.5 billion from the government, which came with several conditions that needed to be met, and one of these was the need to identify a foreign partner. Additionally, a strategic plan to increase its share of the domestic market, as well as to penetrate into international markets, was also required.

Questions were again asked today of what percentage the foreign stake will be in the national carmaker, but Proton declined to comment on the matter. Previously, DRB-Hicom has said that it will continue to hold a ‘strategic stake’ in Proton, even with a foreign partner in the picture.