March 8, 2012 / 3:43 AM / 5 years ago

Chrysler CEO declines 2011 pay; company now worth $7.5 billion

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne (R) answers reporters' questions next to Serbia's President Boris Tadic (2nd L) after the unveiling of the new Fiat 500L on the first media day of the Geneva Auto Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 6, 2012.Denis Balibouse

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC's top executive declined a salary and bonus for a second straight year in 2011, when the Detroit automaker repaid more than $7 billion in government loans from its bankruptcy restructuring nearly three years ago.

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne is still compensated as CEO of Italian automaker Fiat SpA, which owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler and paid him 3.5 million euros ($4.5 million) in 2010.

Chrysler did reimburse Marchionne, however, for cleaning, security and other costs at his condominium in Michigan, according to an annual regulatory filing released late Tuesday.

Marchionne has been CEO of both automakers since Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009. His hard-charging style has been credited with bringing the U.S. automaker back from the brink of collapse and reviving Wall Street's interest.

Chrysler's improved financial performance pushed its value to $7.5 billion at the end of 2011, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, a 56 percent gain from its 2010 value of $4.8 billion.

"(The increase is) primarily attributable to continued improvement in our performance and achievement of the objectives outlined in our business plan," Chrysler said.

Chrysler reported a 2011 profit of $183 million after a $652 million loss in 2010. Its U.S. auto sales jumped 24.3 percent, outpacing the industry's 10.3 percent rise, helped by the launch of 16 new and improved models.

In May, Chrysler refinanced $7.6 billion of high-interest loans from the United States and Canada that were extended as part of the company's 2009 bailout. Fiat later bought the equity stakes held by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

FROM DETROIT TO TURIN

Chrysler, which is not public, calculated the valuation to set compensation for some of its top executives, including Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer and General Counsel Holly Leese, the annual filing said.

Chrysler said the value of each "unit" of the company, calculated from a four-year projection of cash flows and other metrics, was $7.63 as of December 31. Chrysler estimated that it is made up of 980 million units on a fully diluted basis.

Marchionne has shuttled between Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Fiat's headquarters in Turin, Italy, since 2009, when Fiat took management control and a one-fifth stake in Chrysler as part of the terms of the U.S. automaker's bankruptcy.

Chrysler said costs on his condominium were on par with or less than what it would have cost for him to stay at hotels in the area.

His 2011 pay package from Fiat has not yet been disclosed.

Chrysler is now Fiat's chief source of financial strength, exceeding many analysts' expectations. Over the course of 2011 and early 2012, Fiat increased its stake in Chrysler to 58.5 percent from 20 percent.

Sales to fleet customers such as rental car companies made up 27.6 percent of Chrysler's overall U.S. sales last year, down from 36.1 percent in 2010, according to the filing. Fleet sales are less profitable than retail sales to consumers.

But Chrysler has also made missteps, including dull sales of the Fiat 500 small car that fell far short of U.S. targets.

Chrysler's pension shortfall widened to $6.5 billion in 2011, just $1 billion less than its overall market value, due to falling interest rates. Improvements in workers' life expectancy increased the size of Chrysler's liability.

Chrysler's larger rivals Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co are both exploring ways to soften their respective pension risks, which analysts say have taken a toll on their stock price.

($1 = 0.7622 euros)

Editing by Matthew Lewis and Edmund Klamann

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