01/21/2014 14h52

Chinese Auto Maker BYD Eyes $100 Million Investment in Brazil Plant

Facility Would Produce up to 4,000 Electric Buses a Year

The Wall Street Journal

Chinese auto maker BYD 1211.HK -0.14% is looking to invest up to $100 million to establish a plant in Brazil capable of producing up to 4,000 electric buses a year, a senior executive said Wednesday.

If realized, it would mark the largest overseas investment by BYD, in which Warren Buffett holds a minority stake.

BYD Senior Vice President Stella Li said the company is still in discussions with local authorities regarding the details of the investment. Land-purchase negotiations are also progressing, she said, adding that more details would be available later this year.

BYD hopes to sign contracts with key customers before formally announcing the project, Ms. Li said, adding that commercial negotiations with several potential customers in South America are continuing.

In an interview earlier this month, Ms. Li said the plant would be located in the state of São Paulo, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the city of São Paulo.

In November 2013, BYD commenced production of electric buses at its newly opened facility in Lancaster, Calif. The company said investment in that project could reach as much as $30 million in its initial phase.

Ms. Li said that in both cases, investment would be "step by step" over time.

Last October the company said it was considering building a plant in Europe, and in December, it announced a joint venture with a local partner to build electric buses in Bulgaria.

Ms. Li said the Brazil plan involves purchasing an existing plant and building a new one, with the number of buses produced to expand incrementally from the launch date, which she said she expects to occur around August this year.

Although BYD had a target of the plant reaching full capacity by 2015, a more conservative estimate would be 2016, she said.

The plant would produce electric buses for sale in Brazil and throughout Latin America.