The timing of Fiat’s purchase of the remaining 41.5% stake in Chrysler – currently held by United Auto Workers VEBA trust – is moving towards resolution, but the timing remains a topic of conversation.
“It’s under discussion,” Chrysler/Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said during the Chrysler earnings conference call. When pressed by analysts and reporters, Marchionne declined to offer any details. However, he suggested Fiat was in position to use its own resources to acquire the remaining stake from the VEBA.
“When I last checked the bank account, there was enough money,” he said.
Marchionne also said once the VEBA transaction is complete, Fiat will look at listing its share “on the most efficient capital market available,” which is mostly likely to be the New York Stock Exchange rather than the Italian exchange in Milan.
Meanwhile, first-quarter profit fell 23% as the auto market in Europe contracted and costs for model rollouts in the U.S. pulled down earnings.
Trading profit, or earnings before interest, taxes and one- time items, declined to 618 million euros from 806 million euros a year earlier, Fiat reported
(Chrysler reported its financial results for the first quarter. To read about it, Click Here.)
Fiat stuck to a target to increase full-year profit to between 4 billion euros and 4.5 billion euros compared with 3.81 billion euros in 2012, even after the European auto market plunged 9.7% in the first quarter and is on track to decline in 2013 for a sixth straight year. Marchionne also said Chrysler was sticking to its guidance.
“There should be a strong second quarter in the U.S. We all recognize the amount of recovery required in the next nine months huge. But I think the house can deliver,” he said in the wake of a sharp decline in Chrysler’s earnings during the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Chrysler/Fiat still face challenges in the European market, which continues to decline.
Marchionne said he is encouraged by signs that European governments are preparing to move away from the austerity-oriented economic policies implemented in recent years. “The medicine is unfortunately killing the patient,” he said
Overall, Fiat’s deliveries in the European totaled 245,000 units for the first quarter, representing a decrease of around 15,000 units or 6% compared with the first quarter of 2012. The passenger car market registered a significant year-over-year decline of 10% to with sales down in all major markets except the United Kingdom, where there was a 7% increase. In Italy, the market was down 13%, reaching the lowest level since 1980 despite improved demand for LPG and CNG-powered vehicles.
There were double-digit shipment decreases in France of 15 percent Germany of 13% and Spain of 11%.
(Click Here to read about Marchionne’s assertion that Chrysler can afford to purchase the remaining shares of the company.)
Elsewhere in Europe, there was an average 13% decrease in demand. The impact of the economic downturn was also evident in northern Europe, with markets such as Finland and Sweden recording year-over-year declines of 42% and 18% respectively.
The Fiat 500L performed well, ranking second in the Small MPV segment – just a few months after launch – with a 16.6% share. In Italy, the group increased market share 1.1 percentage points to 29% benefiting from its performance in the alternative fuel segment, where market demand was up 48% year-over-year.