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By Raffaele Huang
HONG KONG, March 24 (Reuters) - Sales for German automaker BMW AG's China venture are expected to rise at least 20 percent year-on-year in 2017, the premium automaker's local joint venture partner said on Friday.
The full-year estimate is based on a 44 percent year-on-year rise in the first two months of 2017, Chairman Wu Xiaoan of Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, BMW's 50-50 joint venture partner, told reporters in Hong Kong.
Global automakers must form local JVs in order to manufacture cars in China.
In 2017, premium vehicle sales are predicted to outperform China's overall auto market, which is expected to slow as a tax cut on small-engined cars is rolled back and the economy continues to slow.
China's auto market, the world's largest, is entering a "tiny growth era", Brilliance Chief Executive Qi Yumin said at the briefing. He estimated the overall market would grow more than 5 percent.
BMW, whose China sales grew 11.3 percent last year, is the country's second-largest premium brand after Volkswagen AG's Audi AG and is racing to stay ahead of third-place Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, which recorded 26.6 percent growth in 2016 China sales thanks to a fresher model lineup.
Reporting by Raffaele Huang; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Susan Thomas