Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Malaysian carmaker Proton 'may sell controlling stake'

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia's national carmaker Proton may sell a controlling stake in the troubled business to a foreign manufacturer, a report said Monday.

Proton chairman Nadzmi Mohd Salleh told the New Straits Times that it had been approached by US and Japanese carmakers looking to expand overseas as their domestic markets shrink.

The firm may sign collaborative agreements, or ask them to buy a controlling stake, he said.

"If they buy a stake in Proton, they can get the 29 percent (shareholding) that Proton has. They know what they want. It is up to shareholders to decide if they want to sell Proton," Nadzmi reportedly said.

"If Proton is a problem child, we have to let it go. But if you want to enhance Proton's capability and also the viability over a period of difficult times, then the collaboration with the foreign carmakers has to take a different form."

Nadzmi said Proton may also strike a partnership with an Indian car company.

"Proton is looking at something now (in India). We have to look at the bigger markets. If you look at India and China, you will never go wrong."

Proton was formed 25 years ago as part of an ambitious national industrialisation plan, but its market share has slumped in recent years as it flailed in a newly deregulated market.

It has suffered from a reputation for unimaginative models and poor quality that has left it struggling to compete against Japanese and European carmakers.

The government has urged it to forge a partnership with a foreign automaker to give it the expertise and economies of scale that it needs to survive.

However, talks with Volkswagen and General Motors have collapsed, with the stumbling block reputed to be demands for a stake in Proton.

Malaysian carmaker Proton 'may sell controlling stake'