DRB-Hicom to buy Proton

A deal has been reached to sell the Malaysian government's controlling, 43-percent stake in Proton Holdings Bhd to Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom for $410 million. Rumors surrounding the deal have been in the news for a few months, with Proton's deteriorating profits leading to speculation about if the government would get out and who be the savior. Of course, the other big question was: what happens to Lotus in the event of a sale.

Analysts had uniformly suggested that Proton sell Lotus, citing Proton's sales difficulties and lack of synergies as more than enough reason. DRB-Hicom has interests in various industies from automobile and car-part manufacturing to ports and aiports, but doesn't provide any more synergies with Lotus than Proton alone.

However, with founder and head Syed Mokhtar so closely associated with the firm it could be that he decides to keep Lotus as a jewel in the corporation just because he can – Lotus could do its work in a quiet corner of the DRB-Hicom empire. The deal for Proton is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012, so it shouldn't be long before we find out the fate of the so-close-yet-still-so-far-away Esprit.

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