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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Warren Buffett helps make PHEV maker rich

The richest man in China is now 43-year-old Wang Chuanfu, founder of BYD (“Build Your Own Dream”). According to an annual ranking of Chinese billionaires, Chuanfu is worth 35 billion RMB or $5.1b.

Founded in 1995, BYD worked its way up to become the world’s leading maker of cellphone batteries. The Shenzen-based company (and Chuanfu’s holdings) gained tremendous legitimacy by selling a 10% stake last year to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment vehicle of the Oracle of Omaha. The $232 million investment has appreciated fivefold since then.

Part of the attraction of the BVD investment was its foothold in China’s high-growth auto industry. Last December it got favorable publicity for its pathbreaking F6DM plug-in hybrid. However, earlier this month it revealed it had only sold 100 units since introduction, rather than the target of 3000+ units. It still hopes to sell the PHEV in Europe next year.

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