HONG KONG — Chinese automaker BYD Co. said Monday it had massive expansion plans this year and would consider building a plant in the United States, a day after announcing annual profits had tripled.
The company, which has the backing of American billionaire Warren Buffett, said it will put aside 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion US dollars) this year to grow its business.
Wang Chuanfu, BYD's chairman and reportedly China's richest man, told a news conference Monday the firm is on track to launch its e6 electric car in the US in the second half of the year, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
He also kept open the possibility of setting up a car plant in the United States where hard-hit automakers are struggling to recover from declining sales caused by the global downturn.
"If there is a market, we will not exclude the chance to set up a production plant in the United States," Wang was quoted as saying in a separate report.
Late Sunday, Hong Kong-listed BYD, which is 10 percent owned by a unit of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway investment giant, said 2009 profit was 3.79 billion yuan from 1.02 billion yuan the year before, due to strong China sales.
The auto unit at BYD (Build Your Dreams) claims to be the sixth biggest car maker in China and its future plans are focused on electric or hybrid vehicles.
The firm also makes rechargeable batteries and other mobile phone components -- although it said battery sales dropped about 34 percent last year due to the "sluggish" handset market.
Wang told the news conference that he expects more than 60 percent of 2010 revenue to come from vehicle sales, up from 53 percent in 2009.
Two weeks ago, BYD and German auto giant Daimler announced they had struck a preliminary agreement to mass produce an electric car together.
The pair said the vehicle would be made under a new jointly owned brand for China's fast expanding urban market.
Some analysts, however, are sceptical about the short term prospects of alternative energy automobiles due to limits on the range of purely battery powered vehicles, their cost, and the lack of a network of power stations.
BYD's Hong Kong shares were up one percent in afternoon trade at 69.6 Hong Kong dollars.
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