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Electric-Vehicle Battery Leader to Open German Plant

A lithium-battery assembly line is seen at a factory of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. in Ningde, Fujian province, on Jan. 10. Photo: VCG
A lithium-battery assembly line is seen at a factory of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. in Ningde, Fujian province, on Jan. 10. Photo: VCG

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL), a leading manufacturer of batteries for new-energy vehicles, signed a deal to open its first overseas factory in Germany, while German carmaker BMW increased its investment in China and its purchases from CATL.

CATL will build a research-and-development base in the state of Thuringia with an initial investment of 240 million euros ($282.2 million), according to a filing with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Monday. Company representatives met with German officials to confirm the deal the same day, on the sidelines of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit to the country.

CATL, which has risen rapidly to become the world’s top maker of electric vehicle batteries, has been planning its entry into Europe for some time “in order to improve the company’s outbound global strategy” and to “actively respond” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative to develop infrastructure and trade links overseas, according to the filing. The new deal is the culmination of that planning.

During the premier’s visit, German media, including international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, reported that BMW signed a deal to source $4.7 billion of electric vehicle batteries from CATL over the next few years. The batteries will initially be imported from CATL’s factories in China, while $1.5 billion of the total will be built in Thuringia when the new facility comes online.

BMW also announced that it signed a long-term deal with its Chinese partner, Brilliant Automotive Holdings Ltd., to further invest in its China operations. Brilliant Automotive will expand the capacity of its two factories in Shenyang, Liaoning province, to produce 520,000 BMW-branded vehicles in 2019. The two plants will produce BMW’s electric iX3 model entirely for export, according to a release on BMW’s website.

“The next chapter of our cooperation has the potential to go beyond our existing motto — in China, for China,” BMW Chairman Harald Krüger said.

The two countries signed a raft of deals worth 20 billion euros during the premier’s visit, according to Reuters, with German chemicals giant BASF SE also signing a memorandum of understanding to construct a major chemical production complex in Guangdong province.

Contact reporter Ke Dawei (daweike@caixin.com)

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