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China’s largest privately-owned automotive group, Zhejiang Geely Holding, has agreed to a deal that will hand it the majority stake in famed British sports-car brand Lotus.

The Chinese group – which also owns Volvo Cars and the London Taxi Company – will also take a 49.9 per cent share in Lotus’ current parent, Malaysian company Proton.

The binding heads of agreement announced today is between Geely’s holding company and the current umbrella for Proton/Lotus, DRB-HICOM.

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Today’s announcement to shift 49.9 per cent of Proton and 51 per cent of Lotus from Malaysian hands to Chinese is now just pending regulatory approval, with a definitive agreement expected to be signed during July.

“Subject to regulatory approval and the signing of the definitive agreement, this heads of agreement allows Geely Holding to acquire 49.9 per cent of the shares of Proton from DRB and become its exclusive strategic partner,” the press release said.

“Geely Holding will also acquire a majority share of 51 per cent of Lotus from Proton. Both parties expect to sign the definitive agreement by mid-July 2017.”

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The agreement will lay the foundation for Geely Holding and Proton/Lotus to “explore joint synergies in areas such as research and development, manufacturing and market presence”.

The stated goals are to transform both brands using Geely’s significant resources, build Proton into a leading brand across South East Asia and unleash the full potential of cash-starved Lotus.

Here’s the quote from Geely’s executive vice-president and CFO Daniel Donghui Li.

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“With Proton and Lotus joining the Geely Group portfolio of brands we strengthen our global footprint and develop a beachhead in South East Asia. Geely Holding is full of confidence for the future of Proton.

“We will fully respect the brand’s history and culture to restore Proton to its former glory with the support of Geely’s innovative technology and management resources.”

But it’s his line on Lotus that’ll make car fans happy.

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“Reflecting our experience accumulated through Volvo Car’s revitalisation, we also aim to unleash the full potential of Lotus Cars and bring it into a new phase of development by expanding and accelerating the rolling out of new products and technologies.”

In other words, Lotus might finally get its hands on some cash to meet its potential, rather than just tinkering at the edges of its existing range. Geely has been hands-off with Volvo so far, after all.

Many reports had indicated that it was actually PSA – parent of Peugeot, Citroen, DS and now Opel – that was keen on acquiring Proton and Lotus. But no.

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