There has been plenty of speculation thus far, but DRB-Hicom says it hopes that the public will not be misled by various reports that it has already selected a foreign strategic partner (FSP) for Proton.

Some news reports had indicated that the company’s search for a partner for the national carmaker would be finalised by February 15, but the date was actually the deadline for proposals to be submitted to Proton.

This was revealed by second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani earlier in the week. “After the closing date, a decision will be made soon after vetting the proposals,” he had told reporters. Reports have pinpointed China’s Geely and France’s Groupe PSA as interested parties, but it is worth noting that both DRB-Hicom and Proton has actually yet to name any party directly.

The conglomerate reiterated that it was presently focused on going through the critical process of identifying the ideal partner for the national carmaker, and that it would conclude and announce its decision within the first half of this year, striving to complete the task as early as possible. It added that it will make the proper announcement once the process is completed.

It repeated – via a statement – that the search is a complex and thus, time-consuming process. Following the receipt of the bids, DRB-Hicom said it will start detailed negotiations with the bidders to ensure that the key considerations it had stated before are met by the potential FSP.

Last week, DRB-Hicom group MD Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar had stated that DRB-Hicom will need to evaluate three key criteria – which are the strategic, operational and cultural fit – in finding the right partner for Proton.

Following this, it will then start the process for internal approvals, including convening a shareholders’ meeting as well as obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals and clearance that will pave the way for the selected FSP to acquire shares in Proton.

The government has said it does not plan to be an active participant in the selection, given that Proton is a privately-owned company. Johari stated that the government is fine with DRB-Hicom ceding a majority stake to a foreign carmaker in a deal. “Going forward, the government should allow the private sector to do business, but won’t itself be involved in it,” he said.