KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The owner of Malaysian national carmaker Proton said Wednesday it has shortlisted five potential foreign partners for a tie-up that includes an equity sale aimed at reviving the loss-making company.
Syed Faisal Albar Syed Ali Rethza Albar, managing director of conglomerate DRB-Hicom, says it will remain a “substantial” shareholder of Proton but doesn’t rule out selling a majority stake.
DRB-Hicom, which is involved in the auto, banking, services and property sectors, took over Proton from the government in 2012 but has failed to resuscitate the carmaker. The government had to give Proton a 1.25 billion ringgit ($312 million) loan earlier this year on condition that it seeks a strategic partner.
Syed Faisal, who is also Proton’s chairman, said it received many proposals but has “nailed down five.”
“We are seriously looking at five (bidders) now,” he told reporters. “We would like to complete it by the middle of next year but we are striving to close it by the first quarter of next year.”
Asked if DRB-Hicom will sell a majority stake, he said: “This is something that is still up in the air. Certainly if you ask me if we are going to sell 70 or 80 percent, definitely not.”
Syed Faisal said DRB-Hicom will have to study the proposals to see what is being offered, and how the bidders could provide a strategic, operational and cultural fit for Proton. He declined to name the bidders, saying it was premature.
Local media said DRB-Hicom is considering proposals from Germany’s Volkswagen group, Japan’s Suzuki Motor and French automakers Peugeot and Renault, among others.
Once the king of Malaysia’s roads, Proton’s fortunes have dwindled, with its market share falling to under 30 percent from more than two-thirds a decade ago due to greater competition. Proton has for long sought a foreign partner but failed to seal tie-ups due to the government’s insistence on maintaining control over the company.