Daimler’s Zetsche won’t have to worry explaining the T&E for his trip to the Shanghai Motor Show. He might come back with a big chunk of Chinese money. According to the German Handelsblatt, “Daimler is negotiating with the Chinese sovereign wealth fund about selling shares and doesn’t rule out a Chinese engagement in Stuttgart.” Zetsche put on his best poker face: “We have had talks in the past with possible investors in China, and the talks are still on-going.” Looks like there is more to it: On Tuesday, Zetsche will travel to Beijing to meet with representatives of the Chinese government. Asked whether he would also meet representatives of the Chinese government fund CIC, Zetsche gave a definitive “no comment.” If they buy, China will be in good company:
Daimler’s cars are not just the conveyance of choice of leaders of state, governments also think that Daimler is a good investment. The government fund IPIC of Abu Dhabi just dropped €1.95 billion on Daimler and received 9.1 percent of their shares in return. Kuwait already owns 7.6 percent in Daimler and has been rumored to possibly want more.
A few days ago, China Daily reported that “China’s $200 billion sovereign fund will consider investing in Europe in 2009, after avoiding the continent last year because of trade barriers.”
“Europe has started to welcome investments” without attaching conditions, China Investment Corp’s Chairman Lou Jiwei said Saturday at the Boao Forum on southern China’s Hainan island.
Beijing-based CIC, whose investments have included stakes in Blackstone Group LP and Morgan Stanley, didn’t invest “a single cent” in European companies or assets last year, because the continent had put up barriers to limit the activities of sovereign wealth funds, he said.
The agency was founded to provide better returns for China’s foreign-currency reserves, the world’s largest at $1.95 trillion. The fund last year earned $10 billion from its investments, representing a 5 percent return, Radio Television Hong Kong reported on February 24, citing a source it didn’t identify.
“There was rising protectionism against China last year, and the European Union had the worst limits,” Lou said. “They allowed us to invest in no more than 10 percent of a company’s stakes and required us to give up our voting power” in management, he said.
“We couldn’t accept that because investments should be based on market practices,” Lou Jiwei said. “With the removal of these conditions, we will seriously consider making decisive and prudent investments overseas this year, including in Europe.”
Daimler is no stranger to Beijing. Their BeijingBenz-DaimlerChrysler Automotive joint venture cranks out made-in-China C- and E-Class models. China is dying to get a long version of the E-Class so that the boss can stretch his legs in the back, but Zetsche didn’t want to give a date for the launch of the roomier Beijing Benz. Longer versions of the Audi A4, of the Passat, and even of the venerable Santana are all the rage in the Middle Kingdom. Instead of giving the Chinese a chance to stretch their legs, Zetsche will give them the cramps: Daimler’s [S]mart will come to China.