Hyundai fun day: rumors swirl of hostile FCA takeover bid

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has courted potential partners for a merger before, but a new report suggests that a new suitor may be waiting to buy the automaker now.

Asia Times reported last week, citing unnamed sources, that Hyundai is waiting until later this year to buy FCA (NYSE:FCAU) ahead of Marchionne’s retirement next year. The report suggests that Hyundai (NASDAQ: HYMTF) is waiting for a decline in FCA’s stock price before launching the takeover. FCA’s stock is currently trading just above $ 19 per share.

FCA declined to comment on the report. A spokesman for Hyundai told Motor Authority that the “rumor is totally groundless.”

The tie-up would largely finish what Marchionne started after FCA’s public offering in October 2014, when the CEO openly explored the idea of a merger with General Motors.

Since then, rumors about a takeover from the Volkswagen Group and Chinese automaker Great Wall have come and gone with much ado about nothing, but the recent rumors about Hyundai are a new twist.

The driving force behind the takeover, according to Asia Times, could be hedge fund Elliott Management, which holds a $ 1 billion stake in the South Korean automaker. Elliott Management director Paul Singer also directs investments in Telecom Italia and is closely tied with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan soccer club.

FCA CEO in Europe Alfredo Altavilla was handpicked by Singer for a spot on Telecom Italia’s board of directors, the report says, bringing closer the two groups if a merger emerges.

The report suggests that Fiat Chrysler’s controlling families, the Elkanns and Agnellis, are eager to leave the carbuilding business behind once Marchionne steps down. A power vacuum at the top, little in cash reserves, lackluster electric vehicle strategy, and dwindling technology could speed any decision about a possible takeover attempt. 

Hyundai’s manufacturing footprint in the U.S. is also relatively small, unlike GM or VW, and would be exponentially improved if a merger between Hyundai and FCA happened.

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