Fiat Chrysler CEO rows back on merger search, says focused on plan

Fri Apr 14, 2017 1:04pm EDT
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By Stefano Rebaudo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne rowed back on his search for a merger on Friday, saying the car maker was not in a position to seek deals for now and would focus instead on following its business plan.

Marchionne had repeatedly called for mergers in the car industry and a tie-up has long been seen as the ultimate aim of his relaunch of Fiat Chrysler, which he is due to leave in early 2019 after 15 years at the helm.

He sought a merger with General Motors two years ago but was rebuffed. Only last month he said Volkswagen - the market leader in Europe - may agree to discuss a tie-up with FCA in reaction to rival PSA Group's acquisition of Opel.

Marchionne told the annual general meeting in Amsterdam he still saw the need for car companies to merge to better shoulder the large investments needed, but said Fiat Chrysler was not talking to Volkswagen.

"On the Volkswagen issue, on the question if there are ongoing discussions, the answer is no," he said. He added, without elaborating, that Fiat Chrysler was not at a stage where it could discuss any alliances.

"The primary focus is the execution of the plan," he said.

FCA has pledged to swing to a 5 billion euro net cash position by 2018, from net debt of 4.6 billion euros at the end of 2016 - an achievement that Marchionne has said would put it in a better position to strike a deal in the future.

Volkswagen, which is still reeling from an emissions scandal that hurt its profits, initially spurned FCA's approach.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 9, 2017.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo