China's BYD rolled out the welcome mat for billionaire investor and backer Warren Buffett, flying him to its south China base today for a series of events to showcase its clean car initiatives.
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has profited handsomely from a 10 percent stake it owns in battery and electric car maker BYD, which has jumped nearly seven times in value since Buffett purchased the stake for $230 million in 2008.
BYD invited Buffett to Shenzhen for a signing ceremony that will see the company build an energy storage power station with China Southern Power Grid, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Buffett, the world's third richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $47 billion, will also witness the market debut of BYD's F3DM electric hybrid car nationwide, Xinhua said citing a BYD spokesman.
Reuters could not attend the event due to restricted access.
Buffett, who arrived in Shenzhen on a jet chartered by BYD, will also attend a ceremony to mark BYD's sale of its 1 millionth car, according to the China-based Phoenix net Web site, adding that BYD had spent several million yuan to bring Buffett to visit its China headquarters.
Buffett is scheduled to visit BYD's plants in Shenzhen and the city of Huizhou tomorrow, followed by a trip to Beijing where he will co-host a charity banquet with Microsoft founder Bill Gates to meet about 50 wealthy Chinese to share ideas about philanthropy, according to Xinhua.
His trip will end in with a visit to the central China city of Changsha, where he will visit a BYD electric bus plant.
The trip by Buffett, 80, marks his first to BYD, almost two years after Berkshire affiliate MidAmerican Energy bought a 10 percent stake in the company.
But BYD, whose name stands for Build Your Dreams, has seen its rising star sputter recently, prompting it to cut its annual sales target by 25 percent to 600,000 this year.
It is hoping to reignite growth in the fourth quarter with the launch of new models and the traditional peak season on car sales in China in September and October.
MidAmerican was reported to be interested in BYD's research capability in rapid charge and rechargeable battery technology and power storage technology when it acquired its stake in 2008.
China overtook the United States last year to become the world's largest car market, as sales soared under government incentives designed to boost spending during the global downturn. In recent months, however, sales growth has slowed as Beijing has taken steps to cool a racing economy.