Both Fiat SpA and the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association argued their cases before a Delaware judge during a hearing that could help determine the value of the trust’s remaining stake in Chrysler Group LLC that the Italian carmaker is trying to acquire. According to court documents, VEBA estimated its Chrysler stake to be worth $11.493 billion, while Fiat appraised the trust’s holdings to have a value of $4.68 billion.
The hearing held on April 25, 2013, could help both parties achieve a common ground on the stake price negotiation by providing each side a better sense of their legal theories and the time frame for resolving the matter. The dispute started when Fiat decided to exercise its call option to buy from VEBA a 3.3 percent stake in Chrysler, offering to pay $139.7 million. VEBA, a trust of the United Auto Workers union, said in documents filed with Delaware's Court of Chancery that the stake is worth at least $342 million.
VEBA appeared to have convinced judge Donald Parsons that Fiat was improperly accounting for Chrysler's debt, which VEBA said was depressing the value of Chrysler. But later in the hearing, Parsons appeared to be indifferent to VEBA's arguments that the purchase price proposed by Fiat was barred by federal laws governing retirement benefits since it was below fair market value.
Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne targets to buy VEBA’s remaining stake in Chrysler to pave way for a merger between the two carmakers. A merger would create the seventh-largest auto company in the world and will provide Fiat the need cash flow and scale to offset the effects of the current recession in Europe.