Geely set to build £150m UK plant for green taxis …

The Times 2 January 2015, Leo Lewis

Geely, the quirky Chinese carmaker that began life as a manufacturer of refrigerators, is poised to announce a new £150 million factory in Britain to produce the next generation of energy-efficient London taxis.

Plans for the plant, which have been under deliberation since late 2013 and have received heavy coaxing from the British government, are expected to be announced soon.

It is understood that Geely’s favoured location is Ansty Park, an industrial estate on the outskirts of Coventry seeking to establish itself as a home of technology and innovation. The site is also close to the existing headquarters of the Geely subsidiary Manganese Bronze Holdings, which, trading as The London Taxi Company, builds the famous black cabs but had to be rescued by Chinese investment two years ago.

A formal decision by the Chinese before May will come as a relief. Geely’s reported intention to invest heavily in UK manufacturing was touted as one of the prizes of David Cameron’s visit to China in December 2013 — a trip that broke more than 18 months of diplomatic frost between London and Beijing but was noticeably short on deals.

Since then, the Chinese company’s silence has become ominous, particularly as Geely’s profits have been hit hard by the Chinese slowdown, difficult export markets and, more recently, the plunge in the Russian currency.

In its eagerness to persuade Geely to come through with the investment, the UK is understood to have offered a selection of possible sites. Although Ansty remains favourite, Geely sources said that other options had not been ruled out.

The chief focus of the new factory will be the TX5, an upgraded “green” version of the classic London cab scheduled to enter the market in 2018.

The existing TX4 plant apparently is not up to the demands of the planned next generation of taxi, which will draw on some of the technologies acquired by Geely when it bought Volvo Cars.

Geely’s Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen by about 30 per cent over the past month, with most of the damage done in the past few days.

Li Shufu, the billionaire president of the company, warned last week that full-year net income would fall by 50 per cent on heavily falling sales volumes and unrealised losses on the tumbling rouble.

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