Li embarks on German goodwill tour after Daimler grab

Chinese billionaire Li Shufu moved quickly to assuage officials from Stuttgart to Berlin after his surprise USD9 billion investment in Daimler AG made him the biggest shareholder in the storied German automaker.

Li, the founder of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., was set to meet Daimler Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber on Sunday in Stuttgart, where the Mercedes-Benz parent is headquartered, followed by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche yesterday, according to people familiar with the matter. Today, he’ll see Chancellor Angela Merkel’s economic adviser, Lars-Hendrik Roeller, in Berlin, one of the people said.

The glad-handing may help Li soothe ruffled feathers after his surprise investment gave the Chinese entrepreneur a 9.7 percent stake in Daimler. Li’s gotten the attention he wanted from the German carmaker as he seeks to forge an alliance in areas like battery-powered cars, fuel cells and automated driving systems. But the 54-year-old has also introduced an unexpected plot twist to the story of German engineering prowess epitomized by Daimler itself.

For more, read: Geely Plants Chinese Flag in Heart of Germany

Li has no set agenda with the meetings, according to one of the people. He’s aware of the ongoing debate in Germany about Chinese investments and wants to reassure German officials that, as with his investment in Volvo Cars in Sweden, he’ll respect labor laws and won’t intervene too heavily in management decisions.

“The economic advisor of the chancellor is holding as part of his role a number of talks with business representatives,” a government representative said. “We don’t comment on individual meetings.”

While Geely held loose discussions with Daimler over taking a stake, the disclosure Friday took executives at the premium carmaker by surprise, according to one of the people. Because of the complicated structure of the investment, it’s not clear how many voting rights Li will ultimately have, this person said.

A Daimler spokesman said the company regularly meets with investors, declining to comment on specific meetings.

Chinese companies have been more active buying into German companies in recent years, prompting some debate over how much should be allowed. HNA Group Co., the aviation-to-hotel conglomerate, holds a minority stake in Deutsche Bank AG, and industrial-robot maker Kuka has been taken over by Midea, the world’s largest appliance maker. Eyk Henning, Birgit Jennen, Bloomberg

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