Nissan agrees to sell car battery unit to China's Envision Group

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co 7201.T said on Friday it agreed to sell its electric car battery unit to Chinese renewable energy firm Envision Group for an undisclosed sum.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Nissan Motor Co is seen at its showroom in Tokyo, Japan February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The announcement comes after Nissan canceled a potential $1 billion sale of the unit to GSR Capital last month, saying the Chinese investment firm lacked the funds to make the purchase.

Under the agreement, Nissan will retain a 25 percent share or equity interest in the entity newly formed by Envision. The deal, which covers battery plants in Tennessee and in England, is expected to close in March next year.

The workforce at all facilities covered by the deal will continue to be employed, Nissan said in a statement.

“The transaction will enable Nissan to concentrate on developing and producing market-leading electric vehicles – in line with the goals set in our midterm plan,” Nissan’s Chief Competitive Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi said in the statement.

Lei Zhang, founder and CEO of Envision, said in the statement the partnership will help create innovative solutions for the “IoT value chain”.

The Japanese automaker has been wanting to sell the unit, Automotive Energy Supply Corp (AESC), as it looks beyond its unit to procure low-cost, high performing lithium batteries. Its automaking partner Renault SA RENA.PA sources EV batteries from South Korea's LG Chem 051910.KS.

In August last year, Nissan had announced its plan to sell AESC to GSR for an undisclosed sum. A source told Reuters at the time that the Chinese firm had agreed to pay Nissan a total of $1 billion for the deal.

But the deal faced a series of delays, including prolonged talks between GSR Capital and NEC Corp 6701.T, which holds a 42 percent stake in the company, over the acquisition of its subsidiary NEC Energy Devices, which holds a 7 percent stake.

NEC Corp said in a separate statement it has approved the sale of its stake to Envision. The NEC Energy Devices stake will also be sold to the Chinese company.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman