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Volkswagen’s new CEO Herbert Diess on VW’s China future

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The new CEO of Volkswagen said Tuesday that the company has no plans yet to go it alone in China, but he sees investment opportunities afoot as Asia’s largest economy prepares to open up its market to automakers.

“The car industry is not only 50-50 joint ventures,” Herbert Diess told CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford at Auto China 2018 in Beijing, adding that the world’s largest automaker was open to new partnerships.

“We need to partner with the local tech enterprises. There is a lot to do, but there might be one or other investment opportunities. Investment is always an option,” said Diess.

China announced last week that it would open up the market to foreign automakers, which have been encumbered by ownership limitations in the country for more than two decades.

The restrictions, which prevented foreign car makers from owning more than a 50 percent share of any local venture, will be lifted incrementally over the next four years. Manufacturers of fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be the first to benefit, starting this year, followed by makers of commercial vehicles in 2020 and the wider car market by 2022.

The move is part of China’s efforts to make its domestic autos industry more flexible and establish itself as a leader in electric cars.

Diess dubbed the policy shift as a “positive move forward” that would generate further growth and investment in China.

His comments came in the first sit-down interview since he was appointed as head of the German automaker on April 12, 2018. He will assume the role from August 2018.

His appointment coincided with a string of announcements from the car company, including plans to organize its business into six divisions, while creating a separate portfolio for China, in a bid to decentralize responsibility.

“From our side, we are really set up very nicely in here in China,” Diess told CNBC.

“I think we are so strong because we have strong joint venture partners, and China’s very specific so I don’t think alone we’d be as strong as we are.”

“For the moment we don’t have any plans to change that structure.”

Diess takes over from ousted CEO Matthias Müller, who stepped in to lead Volkswagen in the wake of the company’s 2015 emissions scandal.

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Founder of bottled water Nongfu Spring becomes China’s richest man

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Zhong Shanshan, the chairman of Nongfu Spring Company, attends the Nongfu Spring new product launch conference on February 1, 2015 in Baishan, Jilin Province of China.

Jiang Xin | VCG | Getty Images

BEIJING — Steady gains in the public offerings of two Chinese stocks this year have vaulted their controlling stakeholder to the top of China’s rich list.

As of Thursday, Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan had a paper net worth of $57.2 billion, topping Tencent’s Pony Ma and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, whose respective holdings were worth $56.3 billion and $50.4 billion, according to Forbes.

The paper gains also mean China’s wealthiest man now ranks 17th in the world, just below Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaire list.

Zhong owns 84.4% of the bottled water giant, which is up roughly 77% from its public offering on Sept. 8 in Hong Kong, when the company raised about $1.1 billion in one of the largest public offerings for the exchange so far this year.

Zhong also holds a controlling stake in Wantai Biological, a pharmaceutical firm that claims to be among the several Chinese companies developing a vaccine for Covid-19. Wantai is up more than 2,000% since its public offering on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April.

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We don’t want to ‘reward an enemy’

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Europe gears up to another GDP contraction as coronavirus cases grow

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