Beijing Auto looking to acquire a brand in U.S. or Europe

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Beijing Automotive Group, Daimler's Chinese partner, said it wants to buy a "mid to high-end brand" in the United States or Europe to boost its global presence and it already has candidates in mind.

The state-owned automaker said last year it was seeking to acquire a European brand, but now the search has extended to the United States, according to Dong Haiyang, who heads Beijing Auto's international expansion.

It will take time for Beijing Auto to break into global markets with its BAIC nameplate, which is little known overseas, so buying a foreign brand is a shortcut, Dong, president of BAIC International Development Co, told a media briefing in Beijing today.

"We have candidates," he said.

Beijing Auto has been stepping up expansion both home and abroad to better compete with bigger domestic rivals including Dongfeng Motor, SAIC Motor Corp and FAW Group.

The company, which acquired the technologies of General Motor Co's former Saab unit over four years ago, in June set up an international unit to accelerate international expansion.

In China, Beijing Auto bought two small rivals last year and last week signed an agreement with Daimler to jointly invest 4 billion euros ($5.51 billion) into their China joint venture to more than double car production by 2015.

Chinese automakers are stepping up their global expansion plans as the domestic market becomes increasingly crowded while the poor health of some European and U.S. rivals offers good buying opportunities.

Last week, Dongfeng signed an agreement to buy a 14 percent stake in struggling French carmaker PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, while Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, owner of Volvo Cars, in March acquired British electric-vehicle startup Emerald Automotive.

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