DRB-Hicom mum on new Proton CEO

By MARK RAO

DRB-Hicom Bhd said it is still finalising the details after selling off a 49.9% stake in Proton Holdings Bhd to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd of China.

In response to the speculation of major personnel changes in Proton management, DRB-Hicom said the group’s priority is to prepare a solid foundation for the car- maker under the new partnership with the Chinese shareholder, and that it is not ready to make any new announcements since the deal was signed.

Market talk has tapped Geely’s Li Chunrong as the new Proton CEO, following a news report in China’s Xinhua news agency.

Li, 53, was previously Dongfeng Honda Engine Co Ltd deputy GM and is believed to have joined Chinese automaker Geely to oversee operations at Proton following the buy over.

DRB-Hicom and Geely have not confirmed nor deny the speculation.

The Malaysian Reserve reported yesterday that Proton will see key changes at the management level to meet its expansion plan, following the DRB-Hicom and Geely tie-up.

Proton CEO Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Mohd Kenali had said the company is preparing to ramp up production from the current 100,000 cars to 300,000 cars a year in the next 10 years.

Ahmad Fuaad said as the company will increase capacity in tandem with moving production from its Shah Alam plant to Tanjung Malim, Perak, and that it will be recruiting more workers.

“From the manufacturing side, the majority will be local employees, though there will be a mix of foreign and local personnel at the management level,” he said.

The DRB-Hicom and Geely collaboration is aimed at reclaiming Proton’s mantle in the domestic car market, after reeling against accumulated losses over the past year amid an increasingly competitive industry.

Geely is anticipated to infuse new blood into the financially struggling Proton through the introduction of competitive products and technology and advanced manufacturing systems, aimed at boosting sales in both the Malaysian and South-East Asian markets.

The Chinese automaker will also bring its technical expertise and industry knowledge to the table.

DRB-Hicom, Geely and Proton are presently working towards securing the necessary regulatory approvals to finalise the deal.

DRB-Hicom will remain the majority shareholder in Proton.