Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC) is interested in buying Ford Motor Co's Volvo car unit, the Wall Street Journal reported, adding a new name to a list of potential Chinese bidders for the Swedish luxury car brand.
A team of BAIC executives is likely to visit Volvo's Gothenburg, Sweden headquarters as early as Thursday to meet with its executives and tour its research-and-development and manufacturing facilities, the paper said, citing three people familiar with the situation.
A spokesman for state-run BAIC, China's fifth-largest automaker, said he was not briefed on the company's interest in any foreign auto brands. BAIC expressed an initial interest in General Motors' European brand, Opel, earlier this month but did not follow through.
Other potential Chinese buyers for Volvo that have cropped up in news reports include Geely Automobile Holdings, Ford's China partner Chongqing Changan Automobile Co, and Chery Automobile.
Stefan Elfstrom, spokesman for Volvo Cars, declined to comment.
“Ford has said it is a process ongoing, but they haven't disclosed any names,” Elfstrom said.
Ford Europe could not be reached immediately.
The worst industry downturn in decades has hammered major global automakers in the past year, forcing Ford's US rivals, GM and Chrysler, into bankruptcy and leading to sales of a number of auto brands and assets.
But analysts said Chinese firms, burned by past acquisitions that backfired, lack skill and stomach to take over the entire operations of their foreign counterparts, and are more likely bargain hunters for technologies and assets being sold in secondary sales.
“Don't take the reports seriously. Lots of so called Chinese interest are leaked by investment bankers and lawyers trying to drum up deals,” said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities.
An industry source told Reuters BAIC was interested in technology and designs which could then be used in its first self-developed car which it hopes to roll out in 2010.
BAIC currently only makes Mercedes-Benz and Accent cars at joint ventures with Daimler AG and South Korea's Hyundai Motor.
“BAIC doesn't even have a in-house design car brand so far. How can anyone realistically expect it to take over and turn around Opel or Volvo?” asked the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
One of the people told Wall Street Journal that BAIC's interest was “preliminary” and “nascent.”
Geely Automobile, which has also been talked about as a potential bidder for Volvo and GM's Swedish unit Saab, said last month that it has no intention of making a takeover offer for either Volvo or Saab.
Earlier this month, little known Chinese machinery maker Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery agreed a tentative deal with GM on its Hummer unit, but faces challenges completing the purchase.
Chinese state media has run lengthy commentaries predicting the deal could be vetoed by the Chinese government as it runs against Beijing's policies to promote small and clean cars. (Reuters)