- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

BERLIN (AP) - Abu Dhabi is poised to become the biggest shareholder in Daimler AG after the German maker of luxury cars, buses and trucks said it would sell nearly euro2 billion ($2.72 billion) in shares to the country’s Aabar Investments PJSC.

In a statement released Sunday by the Stuttgart-based company, Daimler said Aabar will buy 96.4 million new Daimler shares at a price of euro20.27 ($27.87) each, which is slightly below the euro21.34 shares fetched at the close of trading Friday in Frankfurt.

The move will give Aabar a 9.1 percent stake in Daimler, bigger than the 6.9 percent stake held by Kuwait.

Aabar’s biggest shareholder is the International Petroleum Investment Co., which in turn is owned by the Abu Dhabi government.

In December, American International Group Inc. agreed to sell its wealth management arm AIG Private Bank Ltd. to Aabar.

“Daimler is an iconic brand and a financially strong company with a reputation for excellence worldwide,” Aabar Chairman Khadem al-Qubaisi said in a statement. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to make this investment and are excited by the commercial potential of our partnership.”

Daimler and Aabar plan to work together on cooperation aimed at developing electric vehicles and materials for auto production as well as establishing a technical training center in the emirate to train students for careers in the automotive industry.

“We are delighted to welcome Aabar as a new major shareholder that is supportive of our corporate strategy. We look forward to working together to pursue joint strategic initiatives,” Daimler said in a statement.

The investment comes at a crucial time for the company and the entire auto industry. Daimler posted a fourth-quarter loss of euro1.5 billion last month _ its first in two years _ and warned that sales of its marquee Mercedes-Benz cars would decline through 2009 because of the economic meltdown’s pinch on the automotive industry.

The nearly $2 billion loss for the maker of Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach, as well as trucks and buses, compared to a profit of euro1.7 billion a year earlier. The final figure was dragged down by losses and charges at Chrysler LLC, of which Daimler holds a 19.9 percent stake.


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