China's Geely buying $9 billion stake in Daimler

The Mercedes star logo at the Mercedes Benz headquarters in Stuttgart Germany on Feb. 1 2018

Daimler says that Chinese businessman Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely, has acquired almost 10 percent of the German automaker's shares.

Major assets of the group include leading Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd., Hangzhou (46 percent), Volvo Cars, Gothenburg, Sweden (100 percent), Volvo Trucks, Gothenburg, Sweden (8.2 percent), Lotus Motor Cars, Norfolk, UK (51 percent), Proton Cars, Malaysia (49.9 percent), London Taxi, Coventry, UK (100 percent) and China's largest car-sharing provider, Cao Cao (100 percent), operating a fleet of around 16,000 electric vehicles worldwide. "Now it wants more direct access to technology, brands and profits", he wrote in a note late on Friday, shortly after the stake was disclosed in a regulatory filing.

"[Geely chairman] Li Shufu is a Chinese entrepreneur Daimler knows well and regards highly in terms of his competency and focus on future developments", said spokesman Joerg Howe.

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Only two to three manufacturers will survive in the auto industry moving forward, said one source who is familiar with the way Li thinks. "Daimler already has a strong footing in China".

Following the potential deal, Zhejiang Geely would surpass Kuwait Investment Authority, as Daimler's top shareholder.

Representatives at Geely couldn't immediately be reached outside business hours in Asia. Geely plans to start selling a compact five-seat SUV, now marketed under the Lynk & Co brand, outside China from mid-2019. In its statement, Geely said Li has a "long-term commitment" to the Daimler stake, and that neither Geely Group nor any other company in the Zheijang Geely Holding Group intend to acquire additional shares for now.

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Geely's expansion comes only weeks after a $3.9bn move to become the biggest shareholder in truckmaker Volvo AB.

Geely itself is no stranger to the European auto business, having bought Sweden's Volvo Cars Corp in 2010. It owns Volvo Cars, LEVC, the maker of London's black cabs, and previous year took a majority stake in sports auto maker Lotus, a 49.9 per cent stake in Malaysian automaker Proton, a US$3.3 billion stake in Volvo Trucks and control of flying vehicle start-up Terrafugia.

He added that Geely could give Daimler an important partner.

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