Frontrunner for Proton’s foreign strategic partner (FSP), Zhejiang Geely, may make a shock exit from negotiations, if a report by The Star is to be believed. The English language daily, quoting Bloomberg, states that the Chinese carmaker’s chairman Li Shufu is planning to pull its bid due to the national carmaker’s parent company DRB-Hicom’s indecision regarding the partnership.
According to the original report by the business publication, Li said that this was because DRB-Hicom kept changing its plans. “They keep changing, today it’s this, tomorrow’s it’s that,” he said in an interview in Beijing today. “They haven’t decided what they want.”
Reports have placed Geely and France’s Groupe PSA as leading parties to become Proton’s partner, with the former said to have previously promised DRB-Hicom some of the latest vehicle technologies it has developed with Volvo’s input as part of the deal. Sources claimed that Geely was looking to break into right-hand-drive (RHD) markets with the partnership, tapping it via Proton.
Both Proton CEO Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Kenali and a company spokesperson declined to comment on this development, Bloomberg reported. On the other side, PSA reportedly confirmed last week that it had submitted an offer for the partnership, which would allow access to Proton’s underutilised facilities to serve as a production and export base, expanding the company’s presence in the South East Asian region.
For its part, DRB-Hicom has already stated that Proton’s strategic partner will only be announced by end of the first half of 2017, pending detailed negotiations with the bidders to ensure that they meet three key criteria – a strategic, operational and cultural fit. It also said that it will maintain a significant equity in Proton as it is the first national and ASEAN’s only car manufacturer.