Daimler Rises on Report China Wealth Fund May Buy Stake

Daimler AG rose to a nine-month high after state-run Chinese newspaper People’s Daily reported the country’s sovereign-wealth fund may buy a stake in the world’s third-biggest maker of luxury cars.

Daimler advanced as much as 2.4 percent to 43.64 euros and was trading up 1 percent at 43.04 euros at 10:58 a.m. in Frankfurt, the highest price since April 4. Volume was 61 percent of the three-month daily average. The stock has gained 17 percent in the past 12 months, valuing the company at 46 billion euros ($60 billion).

China Investment Corp. may acquire a holding of 4 percent to 10 percent in Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler, the People’s Daily said on its website today, citing an unidentified Internet posting. The story wasn’t carried in the newspaper’s print edition. Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche has said repeatedly that he’s looking for a new long-term shareholder and would welcome an investor from China.

“We don’t comment on media speculation,” Silke Walters, a spokeswoman for Daimler, said by the phone. “In general, we always welcome any new investors as a balanced shareholder structure is in the interest of Daimler.” CIC’s press office in Beijing didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the People’s Daily report.

Unlike Volkswagen AG or Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler has no shareholding family behind it. Kuwait has been an investor for decades, currently owning 7.6 percent of the stock, according to Daimler’s website. Abu Dhabi state investment company Aabar Investments PJSC sold the remainder of its stake in October after 3 1/2 years as an investor.

Ranking Competition

Zetsche has vowed by 2020 at the latest to retake the top position among luxury carmakers that it lost to BMW in 2005. Currently, Mercedes takes the third place behind Volkswagen’s Audi brand, which also has plans to overtake Munich-based BMW.

The German luxury car manufacturers have fared better in the European slowdown than their French or Italian volume-market competitors as demand in the U.S. and China help make up for a European auto market that in 2012 probably was the smallest since 1995.

Daimler increased sales of its Mercedes-Benz brand by 4.7 percent to 1.32 million vehicles last year, based on demand for the M-Class sport-utility vehicle and the new compact A- and B-Class cars. Audi and BMW are scheduled to publish their 2012 sales this week.

Mercedes is reorganizing its sales network in China, combining separate entities for locally and imported cars into one company to become more competitive in the country with BMW and Audi. Daimler has also installed Hubertus Troska in a new board position solely responsible for the Chinese market.

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