General Motors on Wednesday denied a media report it was in talks to buy an equity stake in Malaysia’s top car maker, Proton.


Reuters said Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday that GM was discussing taking an unspecified stake in Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), quoting GM spokesman Henry Wong.


“We are not in discussions to buy an equity stake in Proton. This is totally false,” Wong told Reuters.


The Bloomberg report had quoted him as saying the talks were ongoing and preliminary, but the Singapore-based spokesman told Reuters those talks referred to a possible engineering collaboration between GM-Daewoo and Proton for a next-generation Proton vehicle.


Reuters noted that GM entered the Malaysian market last year, mainly selling Chevrolet cars through a distribution agreement with Hicomobil Sdn Bhd. It sold less than 1,000 units in the last quarter of 2003, and around 1,100 in the first three months of this year.


Proton is owned around 35% by Malaysian state investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, and analysts have told Reuters it is ripe for a buy-out by a global carmaker looking for a ready-made foothold in the growing Southeast Asian market.


Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told Reuters on Wednesday he had been appointed an adviser to Proton, which he launched in 1983, and added he would tell the carmaker to find a suitable foreign partner.


Reuters said rivals such as Toyota and Honda have been flexing their muscles and Proton has seen its market share in Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s second-largest car market, drop to around half from some two-thirds previously.