Fiat May Raise Its Stake in Chrysler to 51%

Fiat May Raise Its Stake in Chrysler to 51%
Fiat May Raise Its Stake in Chrysler to 51%

Italian automaker Fiat reportedly plans to raise its stake in Chrysler Group, but isn't planning on merging with America's smallest domestic automaker.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said Monday in Italy that he doesn't plan to merge the companies' operations, but could increase Fiat's ownership in Chrysler to more than 50% should the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company seek to return to the stock market this year.

"I think it is possible, don't know whether it is likely, but it is possible that we go over the 50% if Chrysler decides to go to the market in 2011," Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Milan to celebrate the first trading day of Fiat's industrial division, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Fiat currently has a 20% stake in Chrysler, which it acquired through a government-backed bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. Fiat is likely to gain another 15% share this year for meeting sales goals and boosting U.S. engine production.

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Further, Fiat has an option to purchase an additional 16% after Chrysler repays government loans extended by the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. Treasury holds about a 10% stake in Chrysler.

"It looks cheaper for Fiat to get 51% of Chrysler before the IPO," UBS (UBS) analyst Philippe Houchois told Bloomberg News. Houchois estimates Fiat could save between $1 billion and $2.7 billion if it exercises its options before an initial Chrysler listing.

Still, the analyst said, Fiat's pursuit of a majority stake in Chrysler ahead of an IPO would make a merger of the two automakers logical.