Fiat Chrysler selling holdings to raise cash for upscale brand expansion

Article by Christian A., on June 23, 2014

Fiat Chrysler is planning to sell 3.5 percent of Fiat shares and 2.5 percent of CNH Industrial to American investors – all valued at around EUR602 million ($820 million) – providing the carmaker cash to expand of its upscale brands, chief executive Sergio Marchionne said.

The move is expected to help the carmaker build relations on Wall Street as it gets ready to set up its primary listing in New York in the first two weeks of October.

The new company -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV -- targets to more than double profit and boost annual sales by 61 percent over the next five years, as supported by a EUR55-billion investment plan that entails expansion of the upscale Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands as well as transformation of Jeep a global nameplate.

Marchionne’s plan is already making some progress, with the Maserati brand expecting to double its dealership network to around 500 by 2015 as it prepares to support growth for offering like the new Ghibli compact model, brand chief Harald Wester told Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday.

The carmaker expects the expansion to help it at least achieve the same level of sales in full year 2013 in just six months of 2014. It delivered a total of 15,400 vehicles in 2013. Marchionne is hoping that Fiat’s EUR5-billion ($7 billion) investment into the re-launch of Alfa Romeo will help the brand finally post gains in sales and a profit.

He is planning to introduce eight new Alfa Romeo models to help the brand achieve global sales of 400,000 vehicles in 2018 from just 74,000 units in 2013.

Fiat finally wrested full control of Chrysler in January to pave way for a merger that would be large enough to take on major global carmakers like Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen Group and General Motors Co.

It was reported just recently that board of Fiat S.p.A. has approved the merger between Fiat and Chrysler to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The board as also approved a plan to raise up to $5.4 billion (EUR4 billion) through issuance of new bonds. Fiat may issue one or more bonds until the end of 2015 to become more flexible in refinancing debt while implementing its merger with Chrysler.

In a statement, Fiat said that the bond issuances are designed to manage the consolidated debt of the group in view of older bond issuances due between now and the end of 2015. Just this year, Fiat fully acquired Chrysler to pave way to a merger that would create a carmaker with synergy large enough to rival global carmakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors, and Volkswagen AG. [source: automotive news europe - sub. required]

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