surprise partner

Geely and Daimler: A dangerous liaison

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Looks like a snake, acts like a snake ... Source: Handelsblatt/Kostas Koufogiorgos

As if following a script, Geely boss Li Shufu embarked on a diplomatic tour of Stuttgart and Berlin earlier this week to explain why the Chinese carmaker had just bought a 9.7 percent stake in Daimler. After the bombshell was dropped exactly one week ago, Dieter Zetsche, head of the Stuttgart manufacturer, and German politicians couldn’t just ignore Mr. Li. The investment has forced the Mercedes-Benz maker into an uncomfortable relationship with Geely.

Mr. Li has now returned to China, leaving behind baffled politicians and duped car executives. The self-made billionaire met with Mr. Zetsche, as well as Daimler CFO Bodo Uebber and a representative from Angela Merkel’s office, but the investment is still shrouded in mystery. It’s not clear what the Chinese investor, owner of Swedish competitor Volvo, actually wants. There is vague talk of a technological partnership with Germany’s biggest maker of trucks and luxury cars.

Daimler’s top management has remained mum. Only Hubertus Troska, the board member in charge of China operations, was willing to comment earlier this week, repeating Daimler’s terse press release: “We see this as a positive.” And in Berlin, the government can think of nothing better to do than to consider tightening reporting requirements for stock market deals.

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