Fiat Chrysler stays tight-lipped on deal rumors

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU) said Friday it had no updates on potential buyout interest in the company following one Chinese automaker’s public courtship.

Fiat Chrysler, which issued a statement in response to a request from Italy’s stock exchange regulator, said it “does not intend to comment further on any inquiries.”

“From time to time, FCA may receive inquiries about potential strategic transactions and will evaluate such inquires consistent with its duties to stakeholders,” Fiat Chrysler said.

China’s Great Wall Motor on Monday expressed its intent to pursue an acquisition of Jeep, which is considered to be the most desired brand in Fiat Chrysler’s stable. Fiat Chrysler responded by saying it had yet to hear from Great Wall and remains committed to its current business plan. The Chinese manufacturer of SUVs confirmed on Tuesday it had yet to approach Fiat Chrysler to discuss a potential deal.

Rumors of Chinese takeover interest have fueled speculation that Fiat Chrysler could ultimately sell the entire company or put lucrative brands like Jeep on the auction block. Fiat Chrysler is said to prefer a full buyout. During an earnings call in July, CEO Sergio Marchionne warned that selling its strongest brands would leave Fiat Chrysler with a “suboptimal business.”

Marchionne previously acknowledged that Jeep and truck maker Ram could stand on their own, suggesting that a spinoff would be a possibility. Analysts also see Italian luxury brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati as spin-off candidates. Fiat Chrysler split from Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) in early 2016.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen are in talks to jointly make light-utility vehicles such as commercial vans. The report noted that Volkswagen isn’t interested in acquiring all or part of Fiat Chrysler.

Chinese automakers should face limited antitrust hurdles in the U.S. if a deal materializes, according to industry analysts. But Great Wall would likely need to raise a significant amount of financing to buy Jeep, given the company’s relative small size. Morgan Stanley estimates that Jeep could be worth $33.5 billion.

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