There have been reports about Geely wanting to purchase a stake in Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz trucks and cars. Now, a report by Reuters says that the deed has already been done, as the Chinese carmaker seeks to strike an alliance with the German company over electric vehicle technology.
Word was that Geely was looking at a relatively large stake in Daimler, which is single digits in a company where the biggest single shareholder owns only 6%. Although the report says that the size of the stake is unclear, it is likely to be below 3%, as any purchase above that threshold would require Geely to make a regulatory disclosure in Germany.
It is unclear if Geely, the owner of Volvo and foreign partner of Proton, had sought to buy more Daimler shares. Should the stake be below 3%, it would put Geely’s holding below that of BlackRock’s 5.95%, Kuwait Investment Authority’s 5.33% and the 3.1% held by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, according to German regulator BaFin.
Geely most likely mopped up the shares from the open market. In November 2017, it was reported that Daimler had turned down an offer from Geely to take a stake of up to 5% via a discounted share placement. The German carmaker declined to issue new shares because it did not want to see existing stocks diluted, sources said.
“Geely has opted mainly to show their seriousness and to impress on Daimler folks that they are not going away,” the report’s unnamed source said. Geely has declined comment.
Earlier this week, Daimler reiterated it would welcome interest from long-term shareholders, adding that any significant changes to its shareholder structure would be published on its website. CEO Dieter Zetsche said on Tuesday that he had no information about Geely’s purchases of Daimler shares. “I haven’t seen the chairman of Geely at least for a year,” Zetsche told Reuters.
Insiders believe that this is all to do with electric vehicle technology, in view of China’s tough new quotas aimed at reducing pollution and lowering the country’s reliance on oil. Sources say that Geely wants to access Daimler’s EV battery technology and wants to start an EV joint venture in Wuhan.
Daimler has existing Chinese partners – ties include a venture with BYD, China’s leading EV maker, and state-owned BAIC. The latter has announced that it will stop the production and sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2025, going full electric.
Daimler execs have gone on record to say that they see no need to take on another industrial partner in China because there is significant capacity for expansion in the BAIC JV.