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Nissan sells battery unit AESC to GSR

Nissan HQ, Yokohama, Japan

AESC and facilities in UK, Japan and US sold to private investment group for an undisclosed sum

Nissan Motor has entered into a definitive sale and purchase agreement with investment fund GSR Capital (GSR) for the sale of its battery operations and production facilities. Financial details were not disclosed.

The sale and purchase agreement covers Nissan’s battery subsidiary, Automotive Energy Supply Corp. (AESC), as well as battery manufacturing operations in Smyrna, Tennessee, owned by Nissan North America, and in Sunderland, England, owned by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK).

Assets also include part of Nissan’s Japanese battery development and production engineering facilities in Oppama, Atsugi and Zama.

The workforce at all facilities covered by the deal, including the production plants at Zama, Sunderland and Smyrna, will be retained, while the headquarters and development centres will remain in Japan.

Rumours that Nissan would sell its stake in AESC circulated last year, but were denied by Nissan. At that point, the suggestion was that Panasonic may be interested, while Nissan would look instead to source batteries from LG Chem.

Nissan set up AESC in 2007, as part of a 51/49 venture with NEC Corp. It was established to research, develop and manufacture lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications, with the aim of supplying cells for the Nissan Leaf and other EVs. However, it now appears it may be cheaper for the automaker to buy batteries, including those destined for use in the Leaf, from other suppliers.

Nissan president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa stated that: “This is a win-win for AESC and Nissan. It enables AESC to utilize GSR’s wide networks and proactive investment to expand its customer base and further increase its competitiveness. In turn, this will further enhance Nissan’s EV competitiveness. AESC will remain a very important partner for Nissan as we deepen our focus on designing and producing market-leading electric vehicles.”

GSR Capital chairman Sonny Wu added that the company intended to plough additional resources into battery R&D: “The acquisition of AESC represents an important step for us in the new energy vehicle industry chain. We plan to further invest in R&D, expand existing production capacity in the U.S., UK and Japan, and also establish new facilities in China and Europe, enabling us to better serve customers around the world.”

Nissan will implement the transaction by first taking full control of AESC – founded in 2007 to develop advanced lithium-ion batteries – by acquiring the combined 49% minority holding held by NEC Corporation and its wholly owned battery and electrode subsidiary, NEC Energy Devices (NECED). NEC has approved of the sale of shares and is in negotiations with GSR for the sale of NECED.

 

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