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March 15, 2010

CHINA: Profitable BYD expanding this year

Chinese car and EV maker BYD on Monday said it had massive expansion plans this year and would consider building a plant in the United States, a day after announcing annual profits had tripled.

Chinese car and EV maker BYD on Monday said it had massive expansion plans this year and would consider building a plant in the United States, a day after announcing annual profits had tripled.

Executives had indicated earlier this month BYD was considering expansion in the US and, longer term, thinking ahead about overseas assembly facilities in regions where it plans to sell cars – including Europe and North America.

The company, backed by American billionaire investor Warren Buffett, said on Monday it would allocate CNY10bn (US1.5bn) this year to grow its business.

Wang Chuanfu, BYD’s chairman and reportedly China’s richest man, told a news conference the firm was on track to launch its e6 electric car in the US in the second half of the year, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Wang also kept open the possibility of setting up a car plant in the United States.

There has been some media speculation local authorities in California, a state hard-hit by job losses and about to lose its last car plant, the Toyota NUMMI plant in Fremont, may woo BYD as the area is also expected to become a sales hot spot for EVs. California is already home to domestic electric car maker Tesla and a well established market for Honda and Toyota hybrids.

“If there is a market, we will not exclude the chance to set up a production plant in the United States,” Wang was quoted as saying in a separate report.

Late on Sunday, Hong Kong-listed BYD, 10% owned by a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment giant, said 2009 profit was CNY3.79bn (US$554.5m) compared with CNY1.02bn ($149.2m)in 2008, due to strong domestic market sales.

The auto unit at BYD (Build Your Dreams) claims to be the sixth biggest car maker in China and its future plans are focused on electric or hybrid vehicles.

The firm also makes rechargeable batteries and other mobile phone components – although it said battery sales dropped about 34% last year due to the “sluggish” handset market.

Wang also told the news conference he expected over 60% of 2010 revenue to come from vehicle sales, up from 53% in 2009.

At the beginning of March, Daimler and BYD said they had has signed a memorandum of understanding for a technology partnership to develop electric vehicles for China.

The deal would see a vehicle marketed under a new brand jointly created and owned by Daimler and BYD. In addition, a common technology centre would be established in China to develop, design and test the EV.

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