Thursday, June 4, 2009

So Who IS Buying Hummer?

Short answer: no one really knows, and those who do aren't saying much.

The name of the company that appears to be ready to take Hummer off GM's hands is 四川腾中重工机械有限公司, or Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company, Ltd. Their company website is located here, but it has periodically been down ever since the announcement. Apparently a lot of people are curious about this company.

I was fortunate enough to catch the website working a few minutes ago, but I'll save you the time. The site (both Chinese and English versions) has only the bare minimum of information about the company. It only tells what businesses they are in, but does not discuss the company's ownership.

Here is a timeline of the company's brief history from the site:
  • In early 2005, the company acquired Sichuan Changdian Electric Co., Ltd and renamed it Tengzhong Electrics Co., Ltd. Sichuan Changdian Electric Co., Ltd was established in 1965.
  • In 2006, the Company was renamed Sichuan Tengzhong Machinery Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
  • In 2006, the Company acquired Guangyuan Construction Machinery Group which was established in 1958.
  • In 2007, the Company established an additional production base in Xinjin, Sichuan. The Company was again renamed Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., Ltd.
  • In 2008, the Company acquired Xinjin Road Construction Machinery Factory from China Communication Construction Corp.
  • In 2008, the Company entered into the energy equipment manufacturing business.
I did some additional searching, and I am quite certain that Tengzhong is not listed on any stockmarkets. I searched Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong exchanges, and there is no company with either 腾中 or the pinyin equivalent.

I also searched the ISI Emerging Markets database. Most, but not all, of the articles (in English and Chinese) refer to Tengzhong as "private". None of them even suggest that it is controlled by a state-owned entity.

This story I found on PR Newswire lists the Brunswick Group as Tengzhong's PR contacts, and even lists names, phone numbers and email addresses. (I'm not suggesting that you contact them, but I'm not telling you not to either.)

A few people I have corresponded with have suggested that it has "military connections", but all I can find are claims that it makes equipment for the military. By that standard, we could also say that Boeing has "military connections".

Today, journalists from the Wall Street Journal actually visited the site of Tongzheng, about an hour south of Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Aside from a few pictures, their story only adds to the mystery about this company.

From all I can tell, this is a company that does not appear to want any publicity. However, there are about 800 workers in Shreveport, LA, who are probably eager to know more about their new bosses.

Anyway, the point could prove to be moot. China's central government still has yet to approve the purchase, and both SASAC and the NDRC have warned Chinese companies not to buy foreign assets, or at least to be careful about it.