Belfast Telegraph

Zhejiang Geely takes majority stake in Lotus

The Chinese owner of the London Taxi Company and Volvo Cars has taken a majority stake in sports car manufacturer Lotus.

Zhejiang Geely has bought a 51% slice of the Norfolk-based company in a deal that will also see it acquire 49% of the firm's Malaysian owner Proton.

Lotus chief executive Jean-Marc Gales took the helm of the famous marque in 2014, but has struggled to transform it into a profitable business.

Daniel Donghui Li, chief financial officer of Geely holdings, said: "With Proton and Lotus joining the Geely Group portfolio of brands, we strengthen our global footprint and develop a beachhead in South East Asia.

"We also aim to unleash the full potential of Lotus Cars and bring it into a new phase of development, thanks to our experience accumulated through Volvo Cars' revitalisation."

The move will look to boost Proton's fortunes by giving the firm access to Geely's right-hand drive markets in South East Asia and elsewhere in the world.

However, the deal will signal Proton's exit from the sports car market some 11 years after buying a controlling stake in Lotus in 2006.

Geely and DRB-HICOM - the parent company of Proton - are expected to sign a deal in July.

Syed Faisal Albar, group managing director of DRB-HICOM, said: "Our intention was always to ensure the revitalisation of the Proton nameplate.

"It was Malaysia's first national car brand and has more than 30 years of history. This deal will be the catalyst to elevate a brand that Malaysians resonate with."

It comes after Geely rescued the London Taxi Company in 2013 and opened a new £300 million car plant in March this year.

The site in Ansty, Coventry, is the first to be dedicated to producing electric vehicles.