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China’s Wanxiang plugs Fisker bid, open to Tesla ties

HANGZHOU/BEIJING (Reuters) – Billionaire Lu Guanqiu, a former blacksmith’s apprentice who built China’s biggest auto parts company, says he has an edge over a rival bid for bankrupt U.S. plug-in hybrid car maker Fisker Automotive, and would welcome ties with Tesla Motors Inc , another U.S. electric car maker.

“We have support from Fisker’s creditors, we have support from the local government, and we have a track record of 20 years of responsible investment in the United States,” Lu told Reuters in an interview at the headquarters of his Wanxiang Group in China’s eastern city of Hangzhou. “These are our advantages. The bid is not just about who pays more.”

Wanxiang America will square off with Richard Li, a son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, at a February 12 auction for Fisker, a failed rival to Tesla in electric cars. California-based Fisker, backed by U.S. taxpayer money, stopped making its sleek, Karma sports car in 2012 and filed for bankruptcy protection in November last year.

Last month, just days before Fisker was to be sold to Hybrid Tech Holdings, an affiliate of Li’s, Wanxiang made a surprise bid, prompting a U.S. bankruptcy judge to call for an open auction.

Lu, 69, said Wanxiang, which owns A123 Systems Inc, a maker of batteries for Fisker’s cars, is better placed to restart and expand production at Fisker, and would shift production from Finland to the United States, creating American jobs.

TESLA TIES

But Lu said he would walk away if the Fisker price is too high – Hybrid Tech has said its initial bid would be worth $55 million – and seek opportunities elsewhere, adding he’s open to cooperation with other electric car makers, including Tesla.

“Of course we want to pocket Fisker. But we will bid rationally,” he said. “Whatever the result, nothing can stop us from making electric cars.”

“We have been in frequent touch with Tesla. We supply Tesla, and recently I asked our American unit how (we could) deepen our connection with Tesla. I want to use whatever resources in the world we can use, unite whatever force we can unite, ally with whichever partner we can find.”
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