Volvo Cars is plotting to buy out parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding and free itself of its Chinese joint venture. The Swedish (currently Swedish-Chinese) manufacturer has been hinting at the prospect of going public with an IPO, which most analysts believe would be bolstered by creating some distance from Geely.
While the Chinese Communist Party has ended mandates requiring electric vehicle firms from entering into joint ventures with established domestic businesses, the rule still exists for traditional automakers. However, the general assumption is that most will attempt to regain full ownership of their Chinese assets when the law is lifted next year. But critics are cautioning that the nation is under no obligation to maintain any commitment to foreign entities once they’ve split with their local partners.
Based upon international concerns of intellectual property theft, your author would even argue that China already has what it needs from these businesses. Why not allow them to buy themselves out of relationships and assume total financial responsibility for its facilities when the government can place whatever restrictions it wants moving forward? Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic. But China has a tendency to unapologetically do what’s best for itself and already benefited from the technological sharing required via JVs.
Then again, Volvo has said it receives a high degree of autonomy from Geely. But it also seems content with not getting any cozier and dodged a potential merger that was floated by its Chinese parent company in 2020.
While the details of the current deal have not been shared by either company. Reuters reported that Volvo would be assuming total control of factories in its manufacturing plants in Chengdu and Daqing, as well as its R&D center in Shanghai. It also speculated as to why Geely might be terribly clingy when Volvo’s sales are dwarfed by the Germans.
Volvo Cars sold over 166,000 vehicles in China last year, and its dealers are offering heavy discounts to compete with other premium brands like BMW and Audi.
The Gothenburg-based company was bought by Geely from Ford in the aftermath of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, and has since shared ownership of its Chinese plants with its parent.
Volvo Cars said the transactions, which are subject to regulatory approval, would be carried out in two steps, starting in 2022 and seen formally completed in 2023.
“These two transactions will create a clearer ownership structure within both Volvo Cars and Geely Holding,” Geely’s CEO Daniel Li said in a statement, which did not refer to the possible IPO.
Volvo Cars has referenced the IPO on numerous occasions, however, with CEO Håkan Samuelsson previously indicating it could be underway before 2022. On Wednesday, he said his company would become the first foreign automaker to obtain full control over its Chinese operations. Geely leadership has also hinted at this, Li suggesting in June that Volvo would move quickly if placed on any stock exchange. Regardless, the two companies will still share platforms and components for the foreseeable future.