© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Logo of General Motors is pictured at its plant in Silao

NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Motors Co (N:) is retreating from more markets outside of the United States and China, saying on Sunday that it will wind down sales, design and engineering operations in Australia and New Zealand and retire the Holden brand by 2021.

It also said China’s Great Wall Motor Co Ltd (SS:) had agreed to buy GM’s Thailand manufacturing plant, a transaction expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

In rearranging its global operations, GM is accelerating its retreat from unprofitable markets, becoming more dependent on the United States, China, Latin America and South Korea.

GM Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told analysts during a Feb.5 presentation that restructuring GM’s international operations outside of China so they produce profit margins in the mid-single digits “does represent a $2 billion improvement” compared with 2018’s.

With the proposed sale of its Thailand plant to Chinese automaker Great Wall, GM is giving up an opening to expand its operations in Southeast Asia.

GM is “focusing on markets where we have the right strategies to drive robust returns, and prioritizing global investments that will drive growth in the future of mobility,” especially in electric and autonomous vehicles, GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

The changes will lead to cash and non-cash charges of $1.1 billion.

Great Wall, one of China’s biggest sport-utility vehicle makers, said it will sell cars from the Thai manufacturing plant in Thailand, other ASEAN countries and Australia as the Baoding-based automaker seeks global expansion amid a slowing domestic market.

In January, it signed an agreement to buy a GM plant in India. The companies said they expected the transaction would be completed by the second half of 2020.

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2020-02-16