French carmaker PSA eyes tie-up with Malaysia's Proton

Paris (AFP) - French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen hopes to become a strategic partner for struggling Malaysian group Proton, a company spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.

"We've made an offer to Proton that fits in with the process that Proton has embarked upon and is in line with the exchanges we have had with them," the spokesman said.

Proton is seeking a "foreign strategic partner" to turn itself around.

The spokesman said PSA expected Proton to reply "within a number of weeks," without providing any details on the size of the investment the French group had committed to if the deal goes ahead.

Chinese group Geely, which owns Volvo, is also in the running to take a strategic stake in Proton, according to Bloomberg Business News. Geely declined to comment.

Proton was formed in 1983 by then-premier Mahathir Mohamad as part of an ambitious national industrialisation plan, but it has suffered from a reputation for unimaginative models and poor quality.

It is currently owned by Malaysian group DRB-HITCOM and its brands include the British sports carmaker Lotus.

But Proton's sales are declining and it is burdened with heavy debt.

On February 7, Proton announced that taking a foreign strategic partner on-board would "enable (it) to revitalise itself through access to new platforms, powertrains and technologies which will further improve Proton's range of products and its quality."

For its part, PSA is seeking to expand its geographic footprint.

It is currently in talks to buy Opel and Vauxhall, the European brands of US auto giant General Motors.

PSA is scheduled to publish its 2016 results later this week.