‘NATIONAL FAILURE’: PROTON TO SELL OFF 51% STAKE IN NATIONAL CARMAKER

KUALA LUMPUR – Proton Holdings Bhd., the Malaysian automaker privatized three years ago, has shortlisted carmakers including Volkswagen AG’s Skoda unit and Suzuki Motor Corp. to sell a stake and raise money to turn around, people familiar with the process said.

The carmaker has also chosen proposals from companies including Renault SA and Peugeot parent PSA Group, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified as discussions are private.

A stake of as much as 51 percent will be sold in Proton, which also owns British sports-car maker Lotus Cars Ltd., two people said.

The carmaker plans to trim the list further by the end of October, the people said.

Proton has appointed Malayan Banking Bhd. to advise on the sale, one person said. Company officials will head to Japan to meet with Suzuki executives next week, followed by meetings with Renault next month, the person said.

A Proton spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. A Suzuki spokesman, declined to comment. Renault “regularly explores new business opportunities as it expands its global footprint,” a spokeswoman in Hong Kong said.DRB-Hicom Bhd., which controls Proton, gained 1.4 percent to 1.47 ringgit as of 9:42 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur trading.

A PSA spokeswoman in Paris confirmed the company is participating in the Proton bids and declined to comment further. Spokesmen for Malayan Banking and Skoda declined to comment.

 Loan Condition

Proton is struggling from accumulated debts as sales slump and the company needs to bring in a foreign partner, a condition it agreed to in order to get a federal loan of 1.25 billion ringgit ($304 million) earlier this year.

The carmaker controlled by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary must “seek and identify a strategic and renowned partner” to help in research and development for the company to become a competitive player in the global automotive industry, according to a DRB-Hicom statement in June. – Bloomberg

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