Bloomberg reported that China Evergrande Group’s automotive unit is selling the U.K. startup Protean Electric to e-mobility company Bedeo as part of the developer’s asset sales plan to pay its down debt.

The divestment by China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd. (Evergrande NEV) was announced in a statement later confirmed by Bedeo, although certain details—such as transaction value—were not disclosed to the private nature of the information. 

Europe-focused Bedeo, which produces light commercial vehicles and technology for zero-emissions transport, hopes this deal will enable the company to expand to Asia and the U.S.

Protean makes in-wheel motor technology used in electric cars, self-driving vehicles, and commercial vans. The company has about 150 employees spread between the U.K., China, and the U.S. and has gained more than 200 patents. It is run by Chief Executive Officer Andrew Whitehead, a former designer of Formula One racing engines for Honda Motor Co. 

According to its annual report, Evergrande paid $58 million to buy Protean in 2019, as part of a series of deals made by the Chinese giant as it pushed into electric vehicles. Billions of dollars were spent on such acquisitions, including the takeover of Saab Automobile, which was rescued from bankruptcy. 

Green promises, investments and liabilities

This week, the call to move toward renewable energy has become more compelling as global leaders gather at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Several top polluting countries are committed to zero out their carbon emissions in the coming decades, and finance industry executives have pledged to support the transition to a greener economy.

Despite billionaire founder Hui Ka Yan’s ambitions to take on industry giants like Tesla Inc, Evergrande still has yet to deliver a single vehicle while struggling to shed assets to stave off default as it faces more than one $300 billion debt.

The debt-laden company has sought a buyer for its property management arm and sold off holdings in other companies, including a Chinese bank.

Late Sept., Chinese authorities asked Evergrande’s founder to dip into his own pocket to help pay off the company’s debts, as Bloomberg reported.

However, China’s leader is not among the world leaders present at the COP26, raising doubts among attendees concerning China’s commitment to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, it was reported that the communist country is putting pressure on the United States to ease confrontation over human rights abuses in China if it wants Beijing to accelerate its climate efforts.

Bedeo, founded by Turkish engineer Osman Boyner, has developed powertrains for electric automobiles and is attempting to expand its technology in the marine and aviation sectors.

In April, Reuters revealed that the London-based firm received a growth capital investment from Ludgate Investments Ltd., a European sustainability-focused investment manager.

Investors’ vision has been captured by the boom in electric vehicles, with Tesla’s market valuation surging past $1 trillion this year and plenty of fresh challengers securing listings via blank-check companies.

Rivian Automotive Inc., an electric truck maker backed by Amazon.com Inc., seeks to raise as much as $8.4 billion in a U.S. initial public offering and has attracted commitments from cornerstone buyers, including Blackstone Inc. 

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