When Daimler AG (s DAI) took a nearly 10 percent stake in electric car startup Tesla Motors two months ago, the German automaker had other plans brewing for the investment. This morning, Daimler says it has sold 40 percent of its equity stake to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based investment group Aabar Investments as part of what the companies describe as the “first joint strategic project” in a larger scheme “to leverage their shared interest in the development of low-CO2 drive systems.”
According to Daimler, it never planned to keep the entire 10 percent Tesla stake for long. “Daimler and Aabar both wanted to invest jointly in Tesla” when the investment and battery deal was finalized in May. (Tesla will supply battery tech for at least the first generation of electric Smart cars from Daimler, and the two companies will collaborate on future battery systems.) The state-controlled Aabar, which bought a 9.1 percent stake in Daimler this past March to become the auto group’s largest shareholder, did not at first join the Tesla deal because “clarification of contractual details” was needed, Daimler says in its announcement this morning.
As we wrote earlier this year, oil-rich Abu Dhabi has launched a big push for renewable energy and other clean technologies — notably through the development group Masdar. But the gulf state still lacks much of the research and development infrastructure needed to fuel its own cleantech industry. So until new programs like the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (founded with MIT) help to change that, top dollar can be expected to flow from Abu Dhabi to Western firms, such as Tesla, for precious cleantech IP.
Graphics credit Aabar Investments, Tesla Motors