Daimler and Geely form ride-hailing joint venture in China

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s Daimler (DAIGn.DE) is setting up a ride-hailing joint venture in China with Geely Group [GEELY.UL], in a sign the Chinese firm is making progress in its drive for closer relations with the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars.

FILE PHOTO: A Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicle is seen during the launch of the Mercedes-Benz research and development centre in Tel Aviv, Israel November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

Geely Chairman Li Shufu took a 9.69 percent stake in Daimler earlier this year, rekindling fears in Germany about its highly-prized expertise falling into Chinese hands.

Daimler initially balked at the prospect of a broad based alliance, in part for fear of alienating Mercedes’ existing Chinese partner BAIC (1958.HK).

The German company said on Wednesday it would team up with Geely in China’s ride-hailing market, led by Didi Chuxing.

Ride-hailing accounts for more than 30 percent of the global taxi market and Goldman Sachs believes it could grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, with significant growth potential in China, the world’s largest car market.

“The JV (joint venture) will provide ride-hailing mobility services in several Chinese cities using premium vehicles including but not limited to Mercedes-Benz vehicles,” Daimler said in a statement.

The 50:50 venture will be headquartered in Hangzhou, China, and use Mercedes-Benz S-Class, E-Class and V-Class vehicles among other vehicles. Financial terms and the investment plans were not disclosed.

Didi, founded in 2012, cemented its dominance in China when it bought Uber’s operations in the country in 2016. It is preparing to launch car-sharing and other on-demand transport services.

The prospect of autonomous cars hitting the road has intensified competition between technology companies, ride-hailing firms and traditional carmakers to roll out fleets of smartphone-hailed taxis, or strike cooperation deals.

Ola has been cooperating with Apple since November 2016 and Uber has received investments from Toyota and Google.

As part of the JV, Geely Group Company and Daimler Mobility Services will be equally represented on the board of the new ride-hailing service, for which the two companies will jointly develop the software infrastructure required to support the business in China.

“The development of such services, in which both companies already have a presence, forms part of our transformation from a vehicle manufacturer into a global automotive technology group,” Geely Holding President An Conghui said.

At 0945 GMT, Daimler shares were up 1.3 percent at 51.12 euros. Geely also owns Swedish carmaker Volvo.

Reporting by Edward Taylor, Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Mark Potter

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