Now that the Proton-Geely deal has been confirmed, DRB-Hicom took some time after the signing ceremony to explain the bidding process involved in the selection of a foreign strategic partner (FSP) for the national carmaker.

According to the corporation, plans for a FSP were part of its proposal to acquire Proton in 2011 (formal bid in 2012), in line with its transformation plan for the brand. In fact, news on the matter have been in existence as far back as 2012, followed later on by Proton’s announcement to work with Suzuki and Honda on specific projects (not permanent partners).

Even though DRB-Hicom was looking for a FSP for the national carmaker, it reiterated that it would continue to hold a substantial stake in the company. It then held an open bidding tender for Proton, and between May-June 2016, 23 automotive groups submitted their interest, with 15 candidates later being invited to submit a request for proposal (RFP) between July-August 2016.

That number was further reduced from eight to five candidates after studying the respective RFP submissions, which was followed by site visits between the parties to better evaluate the in-house technology available. It was at this point that DRB-Hicom analysed the candidates’ suitability (or fit) for Proton, based on three criteria – strategic, operational and cultural.

The first, strategic, focused on the technologies or tangible benefits the carmaker could gain from a partnership, be it with platforms or powertrains. The second (operations), focused on management and corporate structure, while the third (cultural) dealt with sharing a similar vision and mission, aspirations as well as chemistry (as you would need to do before marriage).

It was also at this stage that DRB-Hicom required the candidates to commit to four go/no-go conditions. This included a willingness for the parties involved to share their technologies with Proton, ensuring brand continuity, the capacity to inject capital as well as providing opportunities for Proton to be a global exporting hub.

After this particularly demanding vetting stage, the five were shortlisted to just three candidates, at which point due diligence was performed to further evaluate the effectiveness of each remaining candidate to meet Proton’s aspirations. All this culminated in the final selection of Zhejiang Geely as the FSP, which was announced on May 24, 2017, with a definitive agreement to be signed later in July.

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