April 25, 2018 / 5:15 AM / 4 months ago

AUTOSHOW-Daimler CEO: no sign of hostile takeover by top shareholder Li Shufu

* China’s Li took $9 bln stake in Daimler in Feb

* Deal raised German concerns over hostile takeover

* Li not planning to raise Daimler stake - CEO (Adds comment from Zetsche, background on Li’s stake build-up))

By Ilona Wissenbach

BEIJING, April 25 (Reuters) - German car maker Daimler AG’s boss said on Wednesday there was no indication the firm’s largest shareholder, Chinese auto magnate Li Shufu, was planning a hostile takeover, after he took a $9 billion stake in the firm earlier this year.

Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s chief executive, said Li, the head of Chinese carmaker Geely, had told the firm he had no intention to go beyond his current near 10 percent stake in Daimler, which he announced in February.

Li’s deal for the stake in Daimler raised fears in Germany about the country’s most-prized assets falling into Chinese hands, especially because the deal had not triggered normal disclosure thresholds and so caught market insiders unaware.

The Chinese business leader had used Hong Kong shell companies, derivatives, bank financing and carefully structured share options to keep the plan under wraps until, at a stroke, he become Daimler’s single largest shareholder.

The Daimler CEO added there had been no discussions about guarantees that Li would not increase his stake.

Zetsche, speaking at a round table event at the auto show in Beijing, added the firm was not currently considering cooperation with Li or his company Geely. Daimler already has a Chinese joint venture partner BAIC.

Li and his firm Zhejiang Geely Holding control Sweden’s Volvo Cars, London black-cab maker LEVC as well as its own Hong Kong-listed unit Geely Automobile Holdings. It has also agreed to buy a $3.3 billion stake in Volvo Trucks.

Several major deals last year raised German sensitivities about multi-billion euro foreign takeovers, notably Chinese home appliance maker Midea Group buying German robotics firm Kuka, and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing buying German metering firm Ista. (Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Darren Schuettler)

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