GM, Peugeot Pact Targets $2B in Annual Savings

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General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen will seek to squeeze a joint $2 billion annually from a global platforms to purchasing alliance, but the savings will not be fully realised for five years, the automakers said on Wednesday.

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The deal calls for GM to buy into a roughly 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) capital hike by Peugeot, becoming the struggling French automaker's No. 2 shareholder as part of a broad industrial alliance, the companies said on Wednesday.

GM will take a 7 percent stake in Peugeot, Europe's second-biggest automaker, and the two companies will pool research and development, vehicle platforms and technologies, the automakers said.

"The alliance synergies, in addition to our independent plans, position GM for long-term sustainable profitability in Europe," GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement.

The alliance will focus on small and midsize passenger cars and crossovers, the companies said. The statement did not address any possible plant closings or job cuts.

The cost gains from the deal, which will coincide with the joint development of new vehicle platforms, will be limited in the first two years of the deal but will eventually total $2 billion a year, split about equally, the companies said.

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The deal, which comes as Peugeot and GM's Opel unit grapple with slow sales and overcapacity in Europe, has met with widespread investor scepticism as the outlines of the transaction leaked out in recent days.

"PSA needs GM, but GM doesn't need PSA," said Matthew Stover, an analyst with New York-based Guggenheim Securities. "It's hard for me to figure out how this deal helps GM within Europe."

Both automakers have excess capacity of about 25 percent in the region, Stover said, adding that the alliance plan risks "introducing complexity at a time when GM is at a very delicate point in its restructuring".

Like Peugeot, Opel is struggling to reverse mounting European losses compounded by the region's auto sales slump and cut-throat price competition. GM's European operations lost $747 million last year, while Peugeot's core auto division was 497 million euros in the red in the second half.

The Peugeot family's holding company said it will invest 150 million euros in the capital hike, remaining the French automaker's largest shareholder.

The companies said the alliance "enhances but does not replace either company's ongoing independent efforts to return their European operations to sustainable profitability".

The French government is still waiting for information from Peugeot about the alliance plan, an official said earlier on Wednesday.

Peugeot last week confirmed that alliance talks were under way, without identifying the potential partner.

The success of GM-Peugeot will depend on the alliance's ability to overcome political obstacles to cutting European plants, said Mirko Mikelic, who manages investments including GM shares for Fifth Third Asset Management.

"Peugeot's struggling, Opel's struggling," Mikelic said. "You can't just put two struggling entities together and expect magic."

The Peugeot family, which owns just over 30 percent of the car maker, has signalled that it would not be opposed to some dilution providing it remained the principal shareholder.

Despite the tie-up discussions, Peugeot remains a favourite for short sellers with 8.6 percent of outstanding shares on loan, according to London-based Data Explorers - making it the third most shorted stock on France's benchmark index. ($1=0.7450 euros) (Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Laurence Frost and Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by Chris Wickham, Elaine Hardcastle and Mike Nesbit)