Details are yet to be clarified but our Chinese partners are certainly interested in gaining a strong foothold on the Belarusian market. Joy Kie has been partnering Motovelo for a long time, supplying Minsk with components for bicycle production for about a decade. Now, the time has come to modernise our bilateral relations.
The company’s Vice President, Tony Hu, explains that co-operation with the Belarusian giant (which produced up to 1.5 million bicycles annually at the height of its production career) has much to offer. Its Aist trademark remains well recognised across post-Soviet states.
Vice President of Hangzhou Joy Kie, Toni Hu, and chief technician Guangdong Jee
Among evident advantages is access to Eurasian Economic Union markets and the convenient export bridge to Europe. Joу Kie sells its bicycles all over the globe, including to the USA, Canada and Latin America. Moreover, the company is eager to expand its presence in Europe. Last year, it launched two Chinese plants, producing over 4 million bicycles — worth almost $300m.
Motovelo’s scandal — related to unwise privatisation — became known to the public less than a year ago. Rather than developing the company, Austrian ATEC Holding GmbH (among the company’s investors) allowed the enterprise to become bankrupt. It liquidated several workshops (to the prejudice of the company), demolished equipment and sold it abroad as scrap, while mortgaging property to banks and dismissing personnel. Plant owners and some top managers were accused of capital withdrawal.
Production at MotoVeloZavod
The new head of the company, Nikolay Ladutko, tells us, “Our agreement with these Chinese partners is a great opportunity. At present, the plant barely functions, since almost all its property is mortgaged to banks and its equipment is morally and technically obsolete. With this in mind, Joy Kie plans to invest mostly in our name and workforce. We still have about 200 assembly employees.”
The investor has proposed several variants, including using existing workshops or moving to new production sites in Minsk (of which there are plenty). It has even suggested building a new company from scratch, at the Chinese-Belarusian Great Stone Industrial Park. This issue requires additional discussion but our Chinese partners appear ready to inject $2m into the revival of Motovelo steel bicycle frames, while launching manufacture of aluminium frames from scratch. They also plan to invest in assembly of wheels, a painting workshop and a general assembly conveyor. “Of course, it would be better to build a new factory in the future, as yours is 20-30 years behind the times,” Mr. Hu admits.
Motovelo now plans to significantly expand its range, to meet modern requirements. According to Mr. Ladutko, up to 100 models could be produced, if there is support. Joy Kie will help the plant not only financially, but in providing technical documentation and in training staff.
By Alexander Benkovsky