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China’s Geely Automobile plans new EV unit after profit fell by a third in 2020

FILE PHOTO: The Geely Automobile Holdings logo is pictured at the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd said on Tuesday it and its parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will form a joint venture for electric vehicles (EV) and launch a new brand called Zeekr, after its profit fell 32% last year.

In a stock exchange filing, Geely Automobile said the venture will work on research and development, purchase and sale of smart electric vehicles under Zeekr brand.

Geely Automobile and parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will jointly invest 2 billion yuan in the new venture. Geely Automobile will own 51% of the new company, it said.

In two earlier reports, people familiar with the matter exclusively told Reuters about Geely’s plans for the new company and brand.

Hangzhou-based Geely Automobile, highest-profile Chinese automaker in the world due to parent group’s investments in Volvo Cars and Daimler AG, posted 2020 profit of 5.53 billion yuan ($850 million), versus 8.19 billion yuan in 2019, as auto sales in the world’s biggest market was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One analyst expected Geely to post a profit of 4.02 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue fell 5% from the previous year to 92.11 billion yuan.

Geely Automobile sold 1.32 million cars last year, down from 1.36 million units in 2019. It expects to sell 1.53 million cars this year.

Geely Automobile’s parent group announced a flurry of tie-ups by Geely earlier this year as the automaker pursues its goal of becoming a leading EV contract manufacturer and engineering service provider.

Geely Automobile and Volvo Cars last month abandoned their merger plans but launched a new entity to combine their powertrain operations and expand cooperation on electric vehicles.

($1 = 6.5094 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Ryan Woo; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)

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