With speculation that Proton, a maker of economy sedans and hatchbacks, may be fully privatized in the near future, investors are predicting that the Malaysian automaker will sell off its loss-making Lotus unit.
State-owned Khazanah Nasional Bhd., which owns a 43 percent stake in Proton, has confirmed that it has received offers for its share in Proton and speculation that a sale may be coming has seen the stock price rise nearly 50 percent this month.
If Proton were to land in private hands, it’s almost certain that all or part of the Lotus group will be sold.
“It will make sense for them to sell it,” equities investor Gan Eng Peng explained to Bloomberg. “Proton and Lotus are not a good fit. They are in different market segments, both in terms of geography and product.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard Lotus may be up for sale. As recently as October there were reports that suggested Genii Capital, a part owner of the Lotus Renault GP team, was looking to acquire the British sports car brand.
At the time Proton denied the reports, claiming it was committed to ensuring Lotus’ five-year turnaround plan goes smoothly. China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC) is another firm rumored to eying the purchase of Lotus, though it too has denied the possibility.
Lotus is currently in the second year of its $750 million plan, which will see the launch of a number of new models including a new Esprit supercar, Elite grand tourer, Eterne four-door coupe, Elan sports car, Ethos city car, and a new Elise.
However, to become profitable, which Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has previously stated will occur in 2014, the automaker from Hethel will have to sell around 8,000 cars annually, experts believe. In its most recent annual report, Lotus said it sold 1,985 units for the year ended March 31.