Malaysia's Proton eyes Egypt as springboard to Africa, Middle East

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LANGKAWI: Malaysia s national car maker Proton may open assembly facilities in Egypt to help it penetrate Africa and the Middle East, a top company official said Monday.

Proton sells models such as the Gen.2 and Savvy in African countries, including Egypt and South Africa, but assembling cars in Egypt could boost its exports further, Proton Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir told reporters.

From Egypt, we [can] come to use that as a base to enter the African continent and even the Middle East, Syed Zainal said. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan were attractive markets, he said.

A decision on whether to launch an Egyptian facility is not expected until early next year, Syed Zainal said on the sidelines of a conference of Asian and African government officials and corporate leaders in northern Malaysia.

Proton has been trying to boost exports, cut costs and introduce new models to prop up sales and curb losses. The company reported a total loss of 591.4 million ringgit ($169 million) for the year ended March 31.

Proton thrived for years in a protected environment in which high duties were imposed on imported vehicles, forcing many Malaysians to buy Proton cars.

More people are now buying imported vehicles because duties have been slowly lowered in line with agreements in a regional trade pact.

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