Geely Chairman Li Shufu is now Daimler's biggest single shareholder
Chinese manufacturer Geely has made some incredibly bold moves over the last few years, including its purchase of Swedish automaker Volvo from Ford. The Chinese firm hasn't showed any signs of slowing down, either. Geely's latest play has it buying up some $9 billion worth of stock in Mercedes-Benz's parent company Daimler, equating to nearly 10% of the German manufacturer. According to Reuters, that makes Li Shufu, Geely's chairman, Daimler's single largest shareholder.
Don't think of it as a takeover. Instead, Li is hoping the stake will allow his company access to Daimler's technology as a way to give it the upperhand in a forthcoming electric and autonomous vehicle war. “No current car industry player is likely to win this battle against the invaders from outside without friends. To achieve and assert technological leadership, one has to adapt a new way of thinking in terms of sharing and combining strength. My investment in Daimler reflects this vision,” Li said. Since Li's aims are simply for access, Geely has no intention of increasing its stake in Daimler beyond 10% or to take it over in full, the company said.
“Daimler is pleased to announce that with Li Shufu it could win another long-term orientated shareholder, which is convinced by Daimler’s innovation strength, strategy and future potential,” the German company said in a statement. Geely is the largest privately owned automaker in China and has a tough road ahead of it as Chinese authorities look to tighten emissions regulations to heavily favor electric vehicles. Late last year, Geely had asked Daimler to issue additional shares so it could buy them, but that request was rebuffed. Geely then changed course, purchasing a 9.69% stake in Daimler on the open market over the last few months.
The purchase holds promise for Geely, but it could make life complicated for Mercedes-Benz, which works with Renault-Nissan to develop cars and trucks and has a joint venture in China with BAIC Motor Corporation. The JV could be under considerable threat as BAIC is one of Geely's direct competitors in China. Geely's portfolio has been growing rapidly since its purchase of Volvo Cars. It's also purchased significant or majority stakes in Lotus, Malaysian automaker Proton, and Volvo Trucks (a separate company from Volvo Cars). Through Volvo, Geely additionally purchased Polestar, which it plans to turn into an electrified performance brand.
[Images: Fortune/Flickr, Volvo, Geely, Daimler]