Nissan Motor is considering liquidating its 41% interest in autoparts maker Calsonic Kansei, with an eye toward using the proceeds to bolster electric vehicle and artificial intelligence R&D.
The Japanese automaker plans to solicit a first round of bids in June. The sale may raise more than 100 billion yen ($913 million), based on Calsonic Kansei’s roughly 240 billion yen market capitalization at the close of trading Monday.
U.S. and European investment funds, as well as major foreign autoparts makers, appear to be showing an interest in taking Calsonic Kansei shares off Nissan’s hands.
Calsonic Kansei’s mainstay products are heat exchangers, mufflers and air conditioners. With sales of 1.05 trillion yen in the year ended in March, it is the biggest autoparts maker among Nissan affiliates. Thanks to the automaker’s sales growth in North America, Calsonic Kansei posted a 21% rise in group operating profit to a record 38.2 billion yen.
Nissan sees demand growth for autoparts for gasoline- and diesel-engine vehicles hitting a ceiling in developed countries over the medium to long term. This expectation provides the basis for selling the Calsonic Kansei shares, since the company’s focus is on autoparts for conventional vehicles.
For its part, Calsonic Kansei will seek to lower its dependence on Nissan, which now accounts for roughly 80% of its business, by accelerating efforts to cultivate markets, with a focus on emerging economies. Tie-ups with other autoparts makers and investment funds will likely play some role in those efforts.
Nissan is stepping up development of electric vehicles, as environmental regulations continue to get tougher around the globe. It recently decided to take a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors, which is reeling from a fuel economy data scandal. The move will likely help Nissan bolster development of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
Nissan is also actively conducting R&D on autonomous driving technology by joining hands with startups and investing in venture capital firms in the U.S. and Europe. It sees self-driving technology’s potential in helping to ease traffic congestion and in assisting elderly drivers.
While hybrids and electric vehicles are becoming popular in developed countries, combustion engine vehicles still make up more than 90% of global automobile sales, including in China, the world’s biggest car market.