German automaker Daimler says the chairman of Chinese carmaker Geely has purchased more than 9 percent of its shares.
Geely is based in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.
Daimler said: "We welcome that the entrepreneur Li Shufu will become a long-term oriented shareholder". "My investment in Daimler reflects this vision".
But yesterday is the first time Li's stake has crossed the threshold of 3% of stock, requiring a public notification.
The Chinese group bought Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010, and has since transformed the fortunes of the Swedish carmaker. It also has a strong 49 per cent stake in the Malaysian brand Proton, ownership of LEVC (responsible for making London cabs), and a stake in the flying-car start-up Terrafugia.
And in December it advanced further onto Daimler's turf, investing in AB Volvo, the world's number two truck manufacturer after the Stuttgarters.
Li has tapped overseas banks to help finance the investment, according to people familiar with the matter. The Chinese automaker acquired Volvo from Ford back in 2010 and won control of British sportscar-maker Lotus Cars just past year, evidence of Geely's planned proliferation into the European market.
China's avid search for footholds in Europe has raised hackles among some politicians in Berlin, Paris and Brussels.
It reported a 24% leap in net profits a year ago, to 10.9 billion euros, when it presented its annual earnings earlier this month.
Daimler and Geely could not be immediately reached by Xinhua for comments.
With revenue exceeding RMB 270 billion (about US$43 billion) in 2017, the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is China's largest privately owned automotive manufacturing company. Volkswagen is majority-owned by the Porsche-Piech clan, while BMW is 47 per cent owned by Susanne Klatten, Germany's richest woman, and her brother Stefan Quandt.
As Geely has made an unprecedented foray into Europe, Daimler too is undergoing significant change.
In the Chinese market, Geely Auto has become a top-selling brand.
Daimler has said that it aims to make all Mercedes-Benz cars electric by the year 2022.
The company told business daily Handelsblatt yesterday that its relationship with BAIC remained solid.
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