GM eyes stake in Malaysia's Proton

US auto giant one of three possible foreign partners for ailing carmaker.

    Proton, Malaysia's first national car project, is struggling with falling market share [EPA]
    "So we have to see what is best for us, for Proton.''
     
    PROTON

    Proton was set up by Malaysian government in 1983

    National car project backed by then PM, Mahathir Mohamed, as part of vision for Malaysia to become a fully developed country by 2020

    Proton current share of Malaysian market about 31 per cent, down from peak of 65 per cent despite continued government subsidy

    Net profit in 2006 of $14m, down from $131.8m in 2005

    GM sold approximately 9.2m vehicles worldwide in 2005

    Proton sold roughly 153,000 vehicles worldwide in 2005

    Proton is expected to name a strategic partner for its manufacturing operations by March.
     
    The carmaker it looking to a tie-up to help it address sagging sales and for assistance developing new models.
     
    US model
     
    Gaining a stake in Proton could help foreign carmakers consolidate their position in Asia's booming automotive market, as Proton has an underutilised auto plant.
     
    Earlier this month the Malaysian Business Times reported that GM's proposal would include helping Proton build a car for the American market within five years.
     
    Chartchai Suwanasevok, director of public relations for GM Asean/Thailand, neither confirmed nor denied the reports when contacted last week.
     
    "What I can tell you right now is that we consider Malaysia an important market and we frequently meet with other automotive companies to discuss areas of mutual interests," he told Al Jazeera in an email.
     
    Proton's losses are expected to widen after the company reported a $71.5m loss in the three months that ended September 2006 because of lower car sales and rising expenses.
     
    Analysts say a foreign tie-up would provide Proton with technology and access to the international market and is essential to Proton's survival.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera Agencies


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