* Geely, Dongfeng bids for Fisker worth $200-300 million
* Geely appears ahead of Dongfeng in bids for Fisker
* Geely has sent team to southern California to check out
By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING Feb 18 China's Zhejiang Geely Holding
Group is favoured to secure a majority stake in
troubled U.S. electric car maker Fisker Automotive, according to
two sources familiar with Fisker's search for a strategic
investor or partner.
Fisker, the Anaheim-based plug-in hybrid maker, is currently
weighing bids from two Chinese auto makers: Geely, the owner of
Sweden's Volvo, and state-owned Dongfeng Motor Group Co.
The interest in Fisker reflects China's strong push into
alternative fuel cars as it seeks to foster the green technology
sector and clear the increasingly polluted skies of its cities.
The knowledgeable individuals said both offers, which Fisker
received in the last three weeks, were worth between $200
million to $300 million. A deal would give the suitors a
majority stake in the southern Californian company, they said.
The sources, who are close to Fisker, said Geely appeared to
be the preferred suitor.
Fisker's corporate leaders and their advisers believe Geely
is "more serious" and "passionate" about Fisker and its
technology, one of the individuals said.
The Hangzhou-based company also "can move fast" in making
decisions -- unlike Dongfeng, whose responsiveness could be
hampered by its multi-layered decision-making structure typical
in a Chinese state-owned enterprise, the source said.
That quality is likely to work against Dongfeng, since
Fisker is under a tight deadline to find a suitor, he added.
"Most of all, with Geely we're dealing with one decision
maker," the individual said, referring to its charismatic
founder and chairman, Li Shufu.
Geely's Li is also deemed a better suitor due to his
experience in making cross-border acquisitions. In 2010, Geely
acquired all of Volvo from its previous owner Ford Motor Co
"Overall, we think Geely is a better fit," the knowledgeable
The sources noted that Geely had already sent a team of
engineers to Anaheim to evaluate Fisker and its technology for
battery-powered electric cars with a small gasoline engine used
to extend the car's driving range.
Victor Yang, a Geely spokesman in Hangzhou, said: "we are
not in position to comment on this at the moment."
Dongfeng also declined to comment. "Dongfeng pays attention
to all potential opportunities of international cooperation to
cope with future market development both at home and abroad,"
said spokesman Zhou Mi in an email on Monday.
INTEREST FROM EUROPE, SOUTH KOREA
Fisker -- the producer of the $100,000-plus Karma which it
began selling in late 2011 -- fielded interest from several
companies including from both South Korea and Europe.
But it received only two firm bids, from Geely and Dongfeng,
the sources said. Fisker is hoping to sew up a deal by
mid-March, another person said.
Any deal is likely to also involve another Chinese player,
Wanxiang Group, an auto parts maker that has purchased bankrupt
U.S. lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems, Fisker's
primary battery supplier. A Wanxiang executive declined to
"The company has received detailed proposals from multiple
parties in different continents which are now being evaluated by
the company and its advisors," Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher
said in an email over the weekend.
He declined to comment further.
A strategic pact would give Fisker the funds to start
building its second and more affordable model, the Atlantic
plug-in hybrid, which is expected to start at around $55,000 and
be Fisker's high-volume vehicle.
Over the last several months, Fisker Chief Executive Tony
Posawatz and other Fisker executives have travelled to Europe
and Asia to meet investors and automotive makers.
The two bids Fisker is weighing now stem from the trip to
Asia that Posawatz and his top executives made in late January.
During that trip, they travelled to Hangzhou, where Geely is
based, to meet its chairman Li and his technology chief, Frank
Zhao. They also travelled to Wuhan for a meeting with top
executives from Dongfeng and then to Beijing for a meeting
with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.
The search for financial backers comes after a tough 2012
marred by the rocky and delayed introduction of Fisker's Karma,
A123's bankruptcy and an election season that turned the U.S.
government-backed company into a political punching bag.