Mike Stevens | Jan 17, 2012

The Malaysian Government has sold its stake in carmaker Proton this week, in a deal worth $397 million.

Originally held through the state-owned Khazanah Nasional investment firm, the 42.7 percent majority stake gives new owner DRB-Hicom control of both Proton and Britain's Lotus, which Proton has owned since 1996.

The news follows reports last month that Proton could consider off-loading the profitless Lotus brand - despite a potentially bright future - to help a sale of the overall Proton company.

Proton's new owner has yet to reveals plans for either brand, although Lotus is expected to make an announcement about its future in the coming days.

"The only thing we can do is show the current owners, or the new owners, that we are absolutely in line with the business plan that we have presented," Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said last month.

"Without the funding support and the guarantees given by the Proton group, we would not survive, end of story."

DRB-Hicom already builds foreign cars and commercial vehicles for the Malaysian market, including models from Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Honda.

The sale gives DRB-Hicom control of two Malaysian car plants, with capacity for 350,000 vehicles each year.

In Australia, Proton sold 1542 vehicles in 2011, down from 1898 in the previous year. Its best selling model was the S16 with 531 sales, followed by the Jumbuck (396), the Gen.2 (328) and the Persona (173).

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