MAK­ING PRO­TON NO. 1 AGAIN

Chi­nese firm will help Pro­ton be­come a top au­tomaker and make Pro­ton its right-hand drive man­u­fac­tur­ing hub, says DRB-Hi­com group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor

New Straits Times - - Front Page - HANA NAZ HARUN KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

GEELY, which ac­quired a 49.9 per cent stake in Pro­ton, is ‘not just an­other in­vestor’. DRB-Hi­com’s group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor says the global gi­ant, which has a proven track record of turn­ing around ail­ing com­pa­nies, is well-en­dowed to of­fer Pro­ton the best op­por­tu­nity to re­claim the No. 1 spot in the coun­try and to gain a place among the top 3 car­mak­ers in the re­gion.

PRO­TON Hold­ings’ deal with Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ing Co Ltd was not a sell­out of the home­grown brand, and it was the Chi­nese au­tomaker’s plans for Pro­ton that won over DRB-Hi­com Bhd.

DRB-Hi­com group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Al­bar said Pro­ton needed a for­eign strate­gic part­ner (FSP) that un­der­stood what the car­maker wanted and needed.

“I must em­pha­sise that the process we went through was an in­ter­na­tional bid­ding process. It took more than 12 months with thor­ough anal­y­sis, site vis­its and de­tailed eval­u­a­tion cri­te­ria to iden­tify a FSP that had the best fit for Pro­ton.

“In short, we needed to find a part­ner that un­der­stood what we wanted and what we needed, and was will­ing to take the jour­ney with us to­wards our goals and as­pi­ra­tions,” he told the New Sun­day Times.

Syed Faisal shot down crit­ics who equated the sale of the 49.9 per cent stake in Pro­ton with sell­ing out the na­tional car­maker.

On Thurs­day, for­mer prime min­is­ter Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad lamented that the au­tomaker was sold off to for­eign­ers.

The for­mer Pro­ton chair­man said the sale of Pro­ton’s stake by DRB-Hi­com Bhd to the Chi­nese car­maker was prob­a­bly the be­gin­ning of an “in­ex­orable process”.

Pro­ton, Syed Faisal said, was a pri­vate en­tity ever since DRBHi­com ac­quired Malaysia’s first auto brand in 2012, adding that the ac­qui­si­tion from Khaz­anah Na­sional was an “out­right pur­chase”, thus re­mov­ing the “golden share” from the gov­ern­ment.

“Yes, Pro­ton is the first na­tional car brand by virtue of it be­ing the first car mar­que that Malaysia pro­duced back in 1985. By the same to­ken, DRB-Hi­com re­tain­ing 50.1 per cent eq­uity means that we still own the ma­jor­ity stake and the brand re­mains a na­tional brand, a na­tional car.

“But invit­ing Geely Hold­ing to take up a 49.9 per cent stake in Pro­ton does not equate to us sell­ing out,” he stressed.

Syed Faisal said Pro­ton was now a pri­vate com­pany with a global al­liance, adding that form­ing an au­to­mo­tive al­liance was a nor­mal prac­tice, just as In­dia’s Tata group now owned Jaguar and Land Rover.

This meant that Pro­ton had a fair chance of mak­ing a come­back in Malaysia, he said, en­larg­ing its foot­print glob­ally be­gin­ning with Asean, he added.

“We be­lieve DRB-Hi­com could not get a bet­ter part­ner than Geely. One day in the not too dis­tant fu­ture, Pro­ton will be a brand that Malaysians will once again be proud to call one of their own.”

Syed Faisal said DRB-Hi­com was im­pressed with Geely Hold­ing ’s cre­den­tials, and that its bold­ness in ac­quir­ing busi­nesses across the globe was a “study of busi­ness acu­men in it­self ”.

Geely Hold­ing, he added, owned 100 per cent of Volvo Cars, the en­tire stake of The Lon­don Taxi Com­pany and made more than one mil­lion cars glob­aly.

“(Geely) has proved to be a com­mit­ted part­ner in all its ven­tures, help­ing each of the com­pa­nies turn around with ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els of fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment, and a heavy dose of in­jec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion.”

He de­scribed Geely Hold­ing as the “best suitor” and said the com­pany had agreed to re­tain the name­plate and re­claim Pro­ton’s No 1 spot in the coun­try, with a strate­gic vi­sion that was “very aligned” with DRBHi­com’s.

“In or­der to move fast into the mar­ket, part of the agree­ment is to in­ject a sports util­ity ve­hi­cle (SUV) plat­form into Pro­ton and Geely of­fered their best-sell­ing SUV to us with­out even bat­ting an eye­lid.

“This will en­able Pro­ton to en­ter a new seg­ment and a seg­ment that has grown tremen­dously over the last few years,” Syed Faisal added.

He said Geely Hold­ing would pro­vide ac­cess to its ar­ray of green tech­nol­ogy, among other things, and Pro­ton would be­come the right-hand drive man­u­fac­tur­ing hub for Geely-branded cars.

“Pro­ton Tan­jung Malim plant will as­sem­ble Volvo cars. This is a boon for Pro­ton, for sure. Con­sumers will then have higher con­fi­dence, that if a Volvo car can come out from our plants, this means that Pro­ton cars are also of high qual­ity.

“On top of this, we earn an as­sem­bly fee to­gether with Geely Hold­ing.”

He said Geely Hold­ing had set an am­bi­tious tar­get of 500,000 units in an­nual sales by 2027, dou­bling the num­ber of Malaysian em­ploy­ees at Pro­ton.

“This is an im­por­tant ele­ment for us as we wish to be the Top three in Asean mar­kets un­der the brand of Pro­ton.

“They wish for us to grow as one of the big­gest au­to­play­ers in the re­gion; not just ex­port­ing cars to other coun­tries.”

DRB-Hi­com group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Datuk Seri Syed

Faisal Al­bar

PIC BY AH­MAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR

Fi­nance Min­is­ter II Datuk Jo­hari Ab­dul Ghani (cen­tre) wit­ness­ing the ex­change of doc­u­ments be­tween DRB-Hi­com group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Al­bar (sec­ond from left) and Zhe­jiang Geely Hold­ing Group Co ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Daniel Li in Pu­tra­jaya on Wed­nes­day. They are flanked by DRBHi­com group di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate strat­egy plan­ning and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment Datuk Khalid Ab­dol Rah­man (left) and Geely Hold­ing Group in­ter­na­tional busi­ness vi­cepres­i­dent Nathan Yu.

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