Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments spent $2.7 billion buying 9.1 percent of Daimler in 2009. At the time, Aabar said it was "excited by the commercial potential of our partnership," both companies said it was a long-term investment and spoke of joint ventures, and Mercedes-Benz committed to building a training center in the emirate. Aabar then bought a share of Daimler's stake in Tesla, and later that year said it wanted to take its Daimler stake to 15 percent.

Turns out three years counts for long term these days, because a story first reported in Germany's Manager Magazin indicates the fund wants to cash out. There are conflicting accounts as to how big a stake Aabar still has – Reuters says 9.1 percent, Automotive News says three percent, but based on "sources familiar with the situation" various watchers seem sure that the stock sale is on the way.

Aabar won't comment on the situation, Daimler has said it isn't aware of Aabar's intention to sell. Automotive News suggests increased fiscal discipline of Abu Dhabi's deal making could be behind the move, other analysts say the position isn't unusual since the stock price has doubled since Aabar bought in. Still others say that with Aabar having made $113 million from selling its Tesla stake earlier this year, walking completely away from Daimler with money still on the table could indicate broader back-room disagreements.

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