Apple car tie-up talk sends Kia Motors stock soaring

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Kia Motors’ stock just had its best day in more than two decades after news media in South Korea reported that it was closing in on a major deal with Apple.

© SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images Kia Motors Corp. vehicles sit parked in this aerial photograph taken above the company’s delivery center in Gwangju, South Korea, on Friday, July 8, 2016. South Korea is scheduled to release producer price index (PPI) figures on July 19. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The automaker’s shares closed up 9.7% in Seoul on Wednesday, reaching 97,700 Korean won ($87.70) per share. That’s the highest level since August 1998, according to data provided by Refinitiv Eikon.

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According to a report by the newspaper Dong-a Ilbo, Apple is about to invest 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion) in Kia for a partnership to build a new vehicle.

CNN Business was unable to verify the report. Kia and parent company Hyundai both declined to comment on Wednesday, while Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the newspaper, Kia would start producing cars for Apple at its factory in the US state of Georgia, with an initial target of 100,000 cars per year. That capacity could ramp up to 400,000 annually, it said.

The newspaper also reported that a deal could be signed as soon as February 17, with the goal of rolling out Apple cars by 2024.

Speculation about Apple’s interest in working with the South Korean auto industry has been ramping up lately.

Last month, Hyundai was reported to be in discussions with the iPhone maker to develop electric cars. The news at the time also propelled Hyundai’s shares to their best day in at least two decades.

Hyundai has previously said that it was “receiving proposals for cooperation from various companies, but no decision has been made yet.”

If the deal materializes, Apple’s multibillion-dollar investment would go toward manufacturing and development of the new car, according to Dong-a.

A collaboration with the South Korean giant could make a lot of sense.

Of all the automakers, Hyundai has been among the most open to joining forces with other companies — and even tech firms, according to analysts. Beyond its ownership of Kia, Hyundai is also working with Chinese search giant Baidu and US chipmaker Nvidia on autonomous driving. The large number of existing partnerships could make the company a more appealing partner to Apple.

Hyundai has also already made significant strides on next-generation vehicles, including hydrogen fuel-cell cars and an electric vehicle manufacturing platform it unveiled in December.

But Apple may also choose to enter multiple partnerships, with analysts floating other major carmakers as potential options.

CNN’s Jake Kwon, Jill Disis and Charles Riley contributed to this report.

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