经济学人官方译文 | 奔驰汽车的制造商可能很快将有五分之一股权落入中资手中

Two is traffic
A fifth of the Mercedes maker may soon be in Chinese hands

AT DAIMLER’S ANNUAL meeting in May, one shareholder captured the mood. “Don’t replace the Mercedes star with a Chinese dragon,” implored Deka Investment, a big asset manager, referring to the purchase in 2018 by Geely, a Chinese firm which also owns Sweden’s Volvo, of a 9.7% stake in the German car giant. Daimler now faces the rise of a second dragon. Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC) is reportedly poised to double its holding in Daimler to almost 10%. This would put it ahead of Geely as the firm’s biggest shareholder.
在去年5月戴姆勒的年度会议上,一位股东的发言充分体现了普遍的情绪。“可别把奔驰的三叉星徽换成中国龙啊。”大型资产管理公司德卡投资(Deka Investment)的代表恳求道。他指的是2018年中国公司吉利(已收购瑞典沃尔沃汽车)购入了这家德国汽车巨头9.7%的股份这件事。现在,戴姆勒又面对第二条龙的崛起。据悉北汽集团准备将所持戴姆勒股份翻倍至近10%。这将使它超越吉利,成为戴姆勒的最大股东。

If Geely’s manoeuvre was a surprise, BAIC’s is not. In July the state-owned company grabbed 5% of Daimler. Though the dragon is not yet on the bonnet, it has long been under it: engines, powertrains and other parts that go into Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz cars sold in China are made under two joint ventures with BAIC set up since 2005. With Chinese car sales down in 2018 and 2019 after years of steady increases, domestic manufacturers are banking on premium cars for growth. So is Daimler, whose financial performance has been less inspiring than that of its cars. Its share price has nearly halved since 2015.

For BAIC, the relationship with Daimler is “of existential importance”, says Robin Zhu of Bernstein, a research firm. In 2018 sales from Beijing Benz, one of its ventures, grew by 16% year on year and accounted for 90% of BAIC’s total revenue. Mr Zhu notes that BAIC has long sunks profits from Beijing Benz—a tidy 10bn yuan ($1.5bn) in 2018—into “the bottomless pit” of BAIC’s domestic brands, which lost 6.5bn yuan.
对北汽而言,与戴姆勒的关系“攸关生死”,研究公司盛博的罗宾·朱(Robin Zhu,音译)表示。作为北汽合资企业之一的北京奔驰在2018年的销售额同比增长16%,占北汽总营收的90%。罗宾·朱指出,北汽长期以来用北京奔驰的利润(2018年达100亿元人民币之多)填补北汽国内品牌的“无底洞”(亏损达65亿元)。

A bigger stake in Daimler may be an attempt to restore the perception that BAIC, not Geely, is the Germans’ main partner. A spokesman for Daimler says it welcomes long-term investors, especially those it knows well. The German firm owns 9.6% of BAIC Motor, the Chinese company’s Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, and 3% of BluePark, another BAIC affiliate that makes electric cars and batteries.

Many Germans nevertheless worry. With another 5% or so the Chinese duo could block some strategic decisions, says Marc Tüngler of DSW, an organisation which represents the interests of German private investors. The pair could easily join forces. Geely may be privately owned but, Mr Zhu says bluntly, “both ultimately represent the Chinese state.”
尽管如此,许多德国人还是忧心忡忡。德国私人投资者权益保护组织DSW的马克·滕格勒(Marc Tüngler)表示,再增持5%左右的股份,这两家中国公司就能阻挠戴姆勒做出的某些战略决策。北汽和吉利联手是轻而易举的事。没错,吉利是私营公司,但“两者最终都代表中国政府”,罗宾·朱直言不讳地说。

Geely and BAIC may shun separate holdings above 10% to avoid triggering a review by BaFin, Germany’s financial regulator. But Daimler is apparently already worried that an enlarged Chinese stake may invite scrutiny from an American government body which vets foreign deals, including those between foreign firms with American subsidiaries. Another of Daimler’s Chinese joint ventures, with BYD, a maker of electric cars, may come under strain as Congress tries to bar federal money from paying for Chinese buses, which BYD sells to America. On December 15th China’s ambassador to Germany threatened to retaliate against its car industry if the country bowed to American demands to bar Huawei, a telecoms-equipment giant, from its networks. For Daimler, this requires some deft handling.