PROTON SHORTLISTS RENAULT, SUZUKI?

KUALA LUMPUR – Proton Holdings Bhd., the Malaysian automaker privatised 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 SA, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified as discussions are private. A stake of as much as 51% 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.

A Peugeot 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.

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 RM1.25bil earlier this year.

The carmaker controlled by Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s DRB-Hicom Bhd. 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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