Fiat Industrial on Wednesday announced plans to merge with CNH, the US-based farm and construction equipment company in which it holds an 88% stake, in order to simplify the group's corporate structure and attract investors, foster growth and improve credit potential.
Fiat Industrial Chairman Sergio Marchionne said the move was ''a natural extension of the simplification of the Fiat world'' and would allow capital markets ''to properly assess the combined value of Fiat Industrial and CNH. This clarity will also facilitate the financing of these operations at an appropriate cost and provide the necessary flexibility for future transactions''.
''We have surpassed all established targets, reaping the benefits of moving to a new model that ensures business independence and guarantees the full expression of human, industrial and financial potential. Today it is time to take another step forward,'' the chairman explained.
Marchionne added that the operation would have no effect on the activities of the two companies nor employment levels and ''while the name of the company may change, there will be no change in our commitment in excellence...the only change will be new and interesting prospects that will be open to us''. Fiat in 2010 spun off Fiat Industrial to hold its non-automotive activities. These include the production of trucks, commercial vehicles and buses, under the Iveco marque, as well as the non-automotive sector of its Powertrain subsidiary that develops engines and transmissions.
This operation freed Fiat to prepare for a future merger with Chrysler, that it acquired control of in 2009 with an initial 20% stake that has since expanded to almost 60%. The two automakers are expected to merge before the end of 2015.
CNH is a world leader in the production of farm and construction equipment that it markets worldwide under the brands Case and New Holland.
The proposed operation would involve creating a new holding company that would be incorporated in the Netherlands with a primary listing on New York Stock Exchange and a secondary one in Europe. The two companies currently have two separate listings, one in Italy and the other in the United States, and according to Marchionne this was ''unappealing'' and an ''impediment'' to ''our efforts to reap the benefits of positioning in the capital markets one of the largest capital goods companies in the world''.
Fiat Industrial said it had no intention of making an offer on the 12% of CNH and would earmark 250 million euros to compensate any Fiat Industrial shareholders who under Italian law have a right not to be part of the new, foreign-based company.
According to Fiat Industrial, the merger of the two companies ''would also enhance the appeal of the group to international investors, improve the credit profile of both companies and provide an attractive platform for future growth opportunities. The transaction would therefore benefit the shareholders and all other stakeholders of both companies''.
Fiat Industrial said it hopes to complete the merger operation before the end of 2012.
Shares of the Italian group jumped by close to 4.5% after the announcement but the gains were halved by mid-afternoon.