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China's sovereign wealth fund plans to buy a 4 to 10 percent stake in German automaker Daimler AG, according to industry sources quoted in recent domestic media reports.
The news in the Chinese-language press follows reports in late 2011 by Germany's Manager magazine that Daimler has hired an investment bank to arrange a potential deal, with China Investment Corp considered the front-runner.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the time that the company would welcome additional investors from China.
Recent reports on the potential CIC stake came after Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund Aabar sold its remaining 3.07 percent interest in Daimler last October.
Aabar, by 2009 the biggest investor in Daimler with a roughly 9 percent stake, began to gradually sell off its share last year.
Daimler wasn't available for comment on the latest Chinese media reports yesterday.
"Don't over-interpret it," said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities, who noted that "it is just an investment driven by purely financial interest".
"If the buyer was BAIC Group or any other company in the automotive industry instead of CIC, things would be different," he added.
Zeng Zhiling, director of LMC Automotive Asia Pacific Forecasting, had a similar view.
"CIC is a financial investor and won't intervene in the company's operation," he said, but did note that Daimler may want to send a friendly signal to the Chinese market by selling shares to State-owned CIC, which invests part of China's vast currency reserves.
"It's a way to build closer ties with governments, which may help lessen resistance for the company when developing in certain markets," Zeng said.
The Kuwait government owns a 7.6 percent stake in the automaker.
Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz Cars, the world's third-largest luxury automaker. More than 1.32 million Mercedes-Benz cars were sold last year, a new record, nearly 200,000 of them delivered in China.
Daimler currently runs businesses in China that cover all automotive segments. Its biggest operation is a joint venture with BAIC Group that produces Mercedes-Benz cars in Beijing. It also has a partnership in Fujian province making Mercedes-Benz vans.
Last year Daimler joined with Foton Motor Co to build trucks in Beijing.
It also has a partnership in the south with battery and carmaker BYD to develop electric cars under the new brand Denza.
To catch rivals Audi and BMW, Mercedes-Benz has been aggressively expanding local production in China.
A second car plant and a new engine plant are both under construction at the joint venture Beijing Benz.
(China Daily 01/07/2013 page18)