China’s Haier Buys Stake In New Zealand Company

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Chinese appliance maker Haier is to take a 20 percent stake in Fisher & Paykel Appliances in a deal that will combine the New Zealand company's high-end fridges and dishwashers with Haier's vast sales network.

Haier will pay up to 58 million New Zealand dollars ($36 million) for the stake and has signed a cooperation agreement covering areas such as sales, manufacturing and joint business development, Fisher & Paykel said in a statement Wednesday.

Headquartered in Qingdao, China, Haier is the world's fourth largest home appliance manufacturer and employs more than 50,000 globally.

It has long been one of China's most ambitious companies in foreign expansion and has a Los Angeles design center and factories in the United States, Algeria, Malaysia, Iran, and other countries. It is trying to transform itself from a producer best known for low prices into a supplier of higher, premium-priced technology.

Fisher & Paykel shares jumped 29 New Zealand cents or 44 percent to 95 New Zealand cents on the New Zealand stock exchange after a trading halt was lifted.

Including the Haier deal, Fisher & Paykel is raising a total of 189 million New Zealand dollars ($118 million) through the issue of new shares.

The New Zealand company's debt swelled to $355 million as it financed a shift of manufacturing to lower-cost countries, including Thailand and Mexico, and a lower New Zealand dollar increased the size of its foreign debt.

It said it aims to reduce debt by some $190 million this year with the equity raising, sales of factory sites in New Zealand and Australia and by reducing inventory.

The company also announced that revenue for the year ended March 31 dropped 2.4 percent to $852 million.

It made a net loss of $59 million, compared to a net profit of $41 million in the year ended March 31, 2008.

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