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Fiat ups stake in Chrysler

2011-04-13 09:34

BOOSTING STAKE: Fiat has increased its share in US auto group Chrysler from 25 to 30 percent.

DETROIT, Michigan - Fiat has boosted its stake in Chrysler after the US automaker met two international goals outlined by the US government during Chrysler's 2009 bail-out.

Fiat's stake in Chrysler jumped to 30 percent, up from 25 percent, Chrysler said, after Chrysler handily surpassed an international sales target and reached a pact to expand its presence outside North America through Fiat's dealer network.

CONDITIONS APPLY

The goals were part of a complex deal the US government reached with Fiat in 2009 that gave the Italian company a stake and management control of Chrysler. It said Fiat's stake could increase if Chrysler met three tests. The second test was designed to cut Chrysler's reliance on the North American market and came in two parts.

The first part called for Chrysler to report $1.5-billion in revenue outside the US, Canada and Mexico, where it derived 87 percent of its sales in 2010.

In 2010, Chrysler reported $5.4-billion in revenue outside North America, according to a February 25, 2010 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chrysler also had to sell its vehicles through 90 percent of Fiat's dealers in Latin America but local franchise laws proved to be an obstacle to this goal. To resolve this issue, Chrysler altered the deal with the Treasury to allow its vehicles to be sold under the Fiat brand in Brazil.

SHAREHOLDERS

Chrysler's board of directors recommended these changes to the deal, Chrysler spokeswoman Eileen Wunderlich said. They were approved by Fiat, the Treasury, the Canadian government and Chrysler's largest shareholder, the health care trust affiliated with the United Auto Workers union.

Chrysler also announced other key changes to the 2009 Treasury deal on April 12.

Now, Chrysler must sell its vehicles, which can be rebadged as Fiats, through at least 90 percent of Fiat dealers in the European Union. Chrysler vehicles also must be counted toward Fiat's EU emissions ratings.

Additionally, Fiat must provide "compensation" for the use of Chrysler technology outside of North America.

With Fiat taking 30 percent of Chrysler, the UAW stake is 59.2 percent. The U.S. Treasury now has an 8.6 percent holding in Chrysler, while the Canadian government has 2.2 percent.

Chrysler has been led by Sergio Marchionne, who is also chief executive of Fiat, since the US automaker emerged from a government-funded bankruptcy in June 2009.

THREE-STEP PLAN

When it took control of Chrysler, Fiat declined to put any cash into the US automaker, but Treasury agreed Fiat could boost its stake in stages if the American car company met three tests designed to put it on firmer financial footing.

Chrysler met the first test in January, 2011 when it produced a fuel-efficient engine at a formerly-idled plant in Dundee, Michigan. The final test is expected to be met in the fourth quarter, when Chrysler produces a car built on the Fiat platform.

After that Marchionne has the chance to buy an additional 16 percent of Chrysler. He has said one of his main goals for 2011 is to take Fiat's ownership of Chrysler to 51 percent.

Majority ownership would likely come before an initial public offering of Chrysler, which could come as early as the second half of this year. 
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