CATL Europe chief says company eyes plant in North America

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Chinese battery cell maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL) 300750.SZ is considering expanding to North America, one of its senior executives said on Tuesday.

CATL is currently preparing to start construction on its first European plant in the German city of Erfurt, where it will spend up to 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) by the middle of the next decade, but is already looking across the Atlantic.

“Yes we are thinking about that,” Matthias Zentgraf, CATL’s regional president for Europe, told Reuters at the Frankfurt auto show, adding North America was still behind China and Europe in terms of electric mobility.

“We hope that (the market) will ignite at a certain point in time in North America,” he said.

Construction for the planned Erfurt battery cell plant, which could ramp up to have production capacity of more than 100 gigawatt hours by the middle of next decade, is expected to start sometime in the fourth quarter, Zentgraf said.

Zentgraf, who has already struck supply deals with BMW BMWG.DE and Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, said he was having very good discussions with European carmakers about additional contracts, adding more would be announced in the coming months.

He declined to specify which carmakers he was talking to, but said the group was considering further production sites in European Union due to high demand for electric vehicle batteries, not singling out any specific markets.

The market for electric vehicle battery cells is currently dominated by Asian companies including Korea's Samsung SDI 006400.KS LG Chem 051910.KS, SK Innovation 096770.KS, China's CATL and Svolt, as well as Panasonic 6752.T in Japan.

Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Thomas Seythal and Chizu Nomiyama