September 27, 2008 / 3:31 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Buffett unit buys stake in HK battery firm BYD

(Adds bylines, analyst comment, background)

By Ilaina Jonas and Polly Yam

NEW YORK/HONG KONG, Sept 26 (Reuters) - MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co, a unit of U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), said it would pay $230 million for a 10 percent stake in Chinese rechargeable battery firm BYD Co Ltd (1211.HK) to support its ‘green’ technologies.

The deal gives MidAmerican a foothold in the Hong Kong-listed company which is developing electric-hybrid cars it expects to start selling in China later this year and Europe by 2010.

“Mr. Wang Chuanfu has an extraordinary managerial record, and we welcome the opportunity to work with him,” Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire said in a statement, refering to the chairman of BYD.

David Sokol, chairman of MidAmerican, said the technologies being developed by BYD will be an integral part of the future for the care of the environment especially relating to global climate change.

Shares in BYD closed on Friday at HK$8.40, valuing the stake of 225 million shares at about HK$1.890 billion ($243 million) at its last traded price. The stock traded as high as HK$20.45 in October last year.

“The news is positive as the investment is big,” Frederick Wong, analyst at BNP Paribas in Hong Kong said.

Wong said BYD’s capital expenditure had been high in the past 1-2 years and needed funding for development.

“(The investment) will help the company’s fundamentals,” Wong said.

BNP had trimmed its target price of BYD, which also has a mobile phone unit, by 27 percent to HK$8.00 to reflect worst-than-expected macro handset demand and its bearish view on margins, it said in a note written by Wong on Sept 5.

But BNP also believed BYD deserved a 20 percent premium over the sector average because BYD had explosive revenue growth in both the automotive and handset businesses despite earnings growth momentum being dragged down by a deteriorating gross margin.

Hong Kong-listed BYD has invested in the manufacturing of electric cars in China and plans to sell the cars to overseas markets.

Israel’s Clal Industries and Investments CII.TA, a unit of conglomerate IDB Development IDBD.TA, said on Thursday it signed a deal to import electric cars from BYD and sell them in Israel.

BYD’s electric cars are expected in Israel and Europe by 2010. The firm has said the cars could travel 300 km (190 miles) on a single charge. A full charge needs nine hours using its lithium-ion batteries, although they could be charged to 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes. ($1=7.773 Hong Kong Dollar) (Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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