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China's Geely plans new EV unit after profit fell by a third in 2020, shares drop

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Yilei Sun and Ryan Woo
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A building of the Geely Auto Research Institute is seen in Ningbo
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By Yilei Sun and Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -China's Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd on Tuesday announced a joint venture with its parent group for electric vehicles (EV) and a new brand called Zeekr, but its shares fell over 6% on news its 2020 profit dropped by a third.

Geely Automobile sold 1.32 million cars last year, down from 1.36 million units in 2019, as auto sales in the world's biggest market was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall auto sales in China fell 1.9% to 25.3 million vehicles in 2020, according to industry data.

Geely Automobile also said on Tuesday it and its parent group will form a joint venture for electric vehicles (EV) and launch a new brand called Zeekr, and its profit fell 32% last year.

In a stock exchange filing, Geely Automobile said the venture will work on research and development, purchase and sale of smart electric vehicles under Zeekr brand.

Geely Automobile and parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will jointly invest 2 billion yuan in the new venture. Geely Automobile will own 51% of the new company, it said.

In two earlier reports, people familiar with the matter exclusively told Reuters about Geely's plans for the new company and brand.

Hangzhou-based Geely Automobile, highest-profile Chinese automaker in the world due to parent group's investments in Volvo Cars and Daimler AG, posted 2020 profit of 5.53 billion yuan ($850 million), versus 8.19 billion yuan in 2019.

One analyst expected Geely to post a profit of 4.02 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv data. Revenue fell 5% from the previous year to 92.11 billion yuan.

It expects to sell 1.53 million cars this year.

Geely Automobile's parent group announced a flurry of tie-ups by Geely earlier this year as the automaker pursues its goal of becoming a leading EV contract manufacturer and engineering service provider.

Geely Automobile and Volvo Cars last month abandoned their merger plans but launched a new entity to combine their powertrain operations and expand cooperation on electric vehicles.

($1 = 6.5094 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Ryan Woo; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)