Slimmer Fiat hungry for a bigger chunk of Chrysler

Fiat could increase its stake in its US rival Chrysler to more than 50 per cent this year, the Italian automotive giant's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said yesterday.

His comments came at the Milan Stock Exchange on the first day of trading of a newly de-merged Fiat. After 100 years of operation, the company has been split into two part: the car-making business and a sister company Fiat Industrial, which includes the Iveco lorry unit and CNH Global NV tractors. Fiat shareholders were given an equal holding in Fiat Industrial.

The de-merger is expected to make Fiat more nimble in forming global alliances, such as that with Chrysler. Fiat took a stake in the Detroit bellwether when Chrysler entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Fiat is set to receive an extra 15 per cent of Chrysler shares this year, and could further increase its holding once Chrysler repays US government bailout loans ahead of an initial public offering on Wall Street. "It's possible we [will] go over the 50 per cent if Chrysler decides to go to the market in 2011," Mr Marchionne said.