PARIS - Renault has opened exclusive negotiations to acquire Samsung Motors of South Korea. Renault is interested in 'the possible acquisition of part or all Samsung's operational assets,' according to a copany statement.
Those assets include a state-of-the-art plant in Pusan with 1,600 employees and a production capacity of 240,000 cars a year, the commercial Samsung brand, and the dealer network in South Korea. By talking of assets, Renault means it will not take over Samsung Motors' huge debt equivalent to euro 3.8 billion.
Renault's potential acquisition of Samsung has been widely rumored since the French manufacturer's alliance with Nissan last year. Samsung began car production in 1998 with a model - the SM-5 - based on the Nissan Maxima platform.
Nissan engineers also helped the Korean company to build its plant. Since the launch, 48,000 SM-5s have been made, but production stopped because of economic difficulties in Korea. In December 1999, Samsung Motors was put into compulsory liquidation.
However Francois Hinfray, Renault executive vice president for sales, said: 'The Korean market is very interesting. We consider that Samsung could grab a 10 to 15 percent market share in South Korea. The Samsung brand has a very good image there.'