In a bid to quash rumours that Proton has appointed a new chief executive officer, DRB-Hicom has released a statement saying that it, along with Geely, is still in the midst of finalising the transaction of the latter’s acquisition of the national carmaker.

The Malaysian conglomerate stressed that the current priority of both companies is to formulate a business plan to turn Proton around, which The Edge reported is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. That turnaround plan is part of a definitive agreement signed on June 23, in which Geely agreed to purchase a 49.9% equity stake in Proton.

This week, several local dailies reported that Geely had picked Li Chunrong to become Proton’s new CEO. The news originally appeared on Chinese automotive portals China Automotive Review and Gasgoo last month, as well as China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

The executive was apparently poached from Dongfeng, which had only recently put Li in charge of its engine joint venture with Honda in July. A Geely spokesperson said at the time that the company would not comment on media speculation, and that all news is subjected to a final announcement.

In addition to being deputy general manager of Dongfeng Honda Engine, Li had previously sat on the board of directors of the greater Dongfeng Automotive group as a deputy director, and was also the deputy general manager of Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motors.

Rumours had been swirling about Li’s appointment since the beginning of August, and when asked about the speculation then, minister of international trade and industry (MITI) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that the government would not interfere with the appointment of any person to lead Proton, and that the responsibility falls on the company’s board of directors, reported Berita Harian.

“We have to be open and invest to get talent. If we focus too much on whether that talent is foreign or not, it would be difficult for us to make any progress,” Mustapa said, adding that Proton will remain a Malaysian company even if it appoints a foreigner to head the company.

He also said that there was no issue regarding the matter as there are now plenty of local companies that have invested in foreign talent, such as Sime Darby and Petronas. “In line with the open market, Malaysian companies should come out of their shells and not focus so much on getting local talent that they fall behind.”