DealZone

Volvo’s Chinese journey

News that Ford expects to finalize the sale of Volvo to China’s Geely in the first half of 2010 caps a year that saw China overtake the United States as the world’s biggest auto market, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. With Geely rival BAIC announcing its intention to harvest intellectual property from Saab, Chinese automakers are going into high gear in both their short-term goal of serving the high-octane domestic market and their longer-term ambition of retooling their manufacturing base to better serve the global automotive market.

Geely is China’s largest private automaker. Its charismatic founder, Li Shu Fu, is known as the Chinese Henry Ford. He has shown global ambitions and has pushed for Geely to become a global brand.

It’s a road well traveled, the highway from Asia’s industrial heartlands to the world’s garages. Japan and South Korea have blazed the trail thoroughly. Rather than ponder the significance for lumbering Western automakers who are shedding assets to stay alive, it’s worth wondering what Toyota and Hyundai make of their Chinese cousins.

Money no problem for Geely’s Volvo bid

Goldman Sachs has been known to pick a few winners in its day. The $334 million it plunked into the Chinese automaker Geely in September may prove to be one of its craftiest bets.

Geely, picked as the preferred bidder for Ford’s Volvo unit, is seeking at least $1 billion in loans from Chinese banks to finance a $1.8 billion bid, sources say.

Geely means “lucky” in Chinese. But with the bankers it has lined up, the company probably doesn’t need much in the way of luck. Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Export-Import Bank of China have agreed to extend it loans, our sources tell us. That’s about as mighty a banking syndicate as you can get in the People’s Republic.